Feelings of patriotic pride and excitement ran strong throughout the stadium during the opening of Saturday night’s show.

Some of the greatest talent showcased so far was in the first class of the evening. The Owner Amateur Youth Riders 15 - 17 on Walking Mares or Geldings proved to be a thrilling class as it got the crowd excited on the first Saturday night at the Celebration. Judge Rollie Beard called the class of thirty entries. As the riders arrived in the ring the announcement came across that there would be a workout in the class. Fifteen were called in to complete the class and give the judges one last look at what they could do.

For the second year in a row, Stephanie Gordon and the classic horse and multi-world champion Gen’s Fire & Ice took the top award in the class. The exciting team gave a flawless performance as they captured the horse’s 35th world championship. The talented gelding is owned by Stonegait Farms in Orange, California. Reserve honors were earned by I’m Cruella DeVill and Joel Johnson of Shelbyville, Tennessee. Slick Willie and Brad East captured third in the class for Bobby and Rhoda East.

Twenty-four lady riders exhibited in the next class in hopes of losing the title of novice and gaining the title of champion. The Owner Amateur Novice Lady Riders on Novice Mares and Geldings class was called by judge Ray Gilmer. This was the first of two divisions of the competition.

After a fine performance by all of the riders and their entries, the winning number was announced. Sandy’s Senator and Nicole Jaksec rode right out of the novice division with a blue ribbon waving in the wind. Richard Jaksec of Butler, Pennsylvania owns the entry. Red ribbon honors were then received by the team of Flashy’s Mr. Threat and Lisa Patton of Mt. Sterling, Kentucky. Third went to Seduced By Citation and Sue Maze.

The second half of the Owner Amateur Novice Lady Riders on Novice Mares and Geldings class was up next. Twenty-five entered the ring as judge Irby called the class. Before the winners were announced, World Grand Champion rider Allan Callaway stood in center ring as his winning back number 908 was permanently retired. Following the retirement the winners of the class were called.

The team of Walking On Thin Ice and Pat Harrington of Legacy Walkers came all of the way from Coto De Caza, California to claim the blue in the class. The second place tie was then awarded to Gen’s All Color and Carol Smith of Wiggins, Mississippi. Beam’s Rapid Express took third with Gennifer Houchins.

An emotional and poignant moment during the evening came when the unforgettable Snow On The Mountain was honorably retired in center ring. As rider and friend, Bud Seaton led the beautiful white horse around the arena fans and spectators said their tearful goodbyes to Snow and wished him a happy retirement. New flag horse Counterfeit Dollar was then presented to crowd. He and Seaton will assume the flag horse duties at tomorrow’s evening session.

Eleven entries performed in the Western Park Pleasure class. Don Milligan called the class. The competitors were required to canter and all did so with ease. Double Your Money cashed in on the blue ribbon award with Leigh Bennett in the irons for Dwight and Elizabeth Ottman. The class reserve was awarded to Strike It Rich and Joe Dixon for Randall and Gloria Dixon. The yellow ribbon was won by Generator’s Power Pusher and Jeff Givens for Dick and Sally Reilley.

Following the end of the Western Park Pleasure class the 2002 Celebration Queen and runner up were driven around the track in a fancy white Ford Mustang.

Two of the largest classes of the night was the Two-Year-Old Mares class. The class was split into two divisions with one containing a workout. The first split boasted an astounding thirty-seven entries! Seven were parked in immediately and nine others followed as judge Whitehead had the difficult task of calling the class. After a thorough workout the judges inspected the lineup as they made their final decisions.

First place in the large class was won by Joe Cotten and Texas Salsa for Wink and Nancy Groover. With this win, Wink and Nancy will retain permanent possession of the Ed Ezell Sr. and Ed Ezell Jr. Memorial Challenge Trophy. The trophy must be won twice by the same owner for possession. The Groovers won the same class for the first time in 1999. Reserve honors were then presented to Susan B. Anthony and Rodney Dick for the G.R. Trumble Family. Third tie was given to I’m Causin’ Commotion and John Allen Callaway for Jim and Debbie Myers.

Twenty-seven responded to the call for Division B competition of the Two-Year-Old Mares. Judge Beard was the officiating judge of the class. The judges decided that the class would be ties and no workout was needed. The sole gray horse in the class, Gen’s Dixie Crystals took the top award in the class. Larry Edwards was the rider for Carl Edwards and Sons Stables of Dawson, Georgia. Miss Sweepstakes USA was tied second with Link Webb for Donnie and Marie Taylor. Third went to Pusher’s Lady Of The Year and Dick Peebles for Troy Richards.

The first grand championship class, the Walking Yearlings, received fourteen entries through the gate. The honorable Ray Gilmer was the call judge. Rain greeted the entries but it takes more than rain to stop the Celebration. Following a careful look at all of the championship entries, the judges decided to award the tricolor to All American Ritz and Marty Warren for Denise Smith of Nashville, Tennessee. Dark Spirit’s Shaman and Jeff Givens took home reserve for Billy and Sue Dean. Olympic Titan took third with Bobby Richards for Rhonda Martocci.

With nineteen entries answering the gate call the Owner Amateur Novice Gentleman Riders on Novice Walking Stallions entertained the crowd. The A division of the class was called by judge Irby. The rain had poured down constantly throughout the class, but that didn’t stop Jr. Walker and A Major Masterpiece from breaking out of the novice division with a blue ribbon ride. Warley and Walker are the owners. Big Papa Cool gave a stylish performance for reserve in the class. Third was presented to Eb’s Magic Motion and John Callicut.

Judge Milligan called Division B of the Owner Amateur Novice Riders on Novice Stallions. Nineteen participated in the tough class of novice riders. Ben Moss and Arm’s Dealer made their final appearance in the novice division as they were awarded the blue. ADA2D and Dr. Jim Baum made a good show for reserve honors. Third went to Titanium Touch and Hal Smith.

Then it was time.

There’s been a lot of talkin’ and now it was time for some walkin’. Two of the most anxiously awaited classes of the evening and the entire week were up next. Division A of the Aged Stallions 15.2 and Over had fourteen entries competing for the prestigious top honors in the class. Judge Whitehead was the call judge. The last team in the ring was the last team to leave. Out On Parole, the reigning Four-Year-Old World Grand Champion, rose to the occasion and took the world championship award with Steve Dunn in the irons. The team drew quite a bit of talk as they only showed once during the 2002 show season at the Fun Show. The fine stallion took first their as well. The Randall Baskin family owns the champion.

Always a crowd pleaser, Seve took reserve with Allen Forman. Utermark and Cole own the entry. Generator’s Showboat and Brock Tillman gave a good show to win third for Stacey Beard Henderson.

It just kept getting better with the arrival of Division B of the Aged Stallions. Judge Rollie Beard called the class. Thirteen entered to compete in the class. With four wins out of four shows since last year’s Celebration to their credit, Pushover’s Powerstroke and Ronnie Spears made a terrific show to receive first in the class and the great title of world champion. The well paired team has made their mark earlier in the season at shows like Murfreesboro and Woodbury as well as the International and Dixie Jubilee in 2001. Powerstroke is no stranger to the winners circle at the Celebration. The powerful black stallion was the 1999 Four-Year-Old World Grand Champion and World Champion. The proud owners are Glen and Virgie Crutchfield of Memphis, Tennessee.

Trainers’ Show champions, Cash’s All Star and Larry Edwards performed quite well to take home reserve in the class. Herb Murrath is the owner. Third went to Pusher’s High Voltage and Mickey McCormick for Becky Hicks.

Tomorrow night one of the most talked about classes of the year, the Four-Year-Old Stallions will be in action. As for tonight all that could be said was; what a show.