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Random Thoughts on Celebration 2004

By David L. Howard

Little did I realize that when I attended my first Celebration in 1965, that forty years later I would still be involved with horses. I came as a summer staff representative of the VOICE magazine, then owned by Bruce Spencer in Chattanooga, Tennessee and have been here every year since.

I was working a summer job after my junior year studying Journalism at the University of Tennessee with my sights set on being the Sports Editor of the Knoxville News-Sentinel covering UT sports. Economics, a pregnant wife and paying off a thousand dollar loan to go to school from the VOICE forced me to go to work there full time the following year and the rest is history.

Now forty years and forty pounds (32 actually) later I have the best of both worlds - horses and UT sports - and a family involved in all aspects of my life. We have been blessed by our association with horse people and The Celebration in particular.

I still remember my first visit to a walking horse barn - Wink Groover Stables in Etowah, Tennessee (only an hour’s drive from Chattanooga). He was young and rambunctious and headed to the top of the sport with Johnny Cabe and Larry Webb as his two cohorts in crime. A week later I attended my first horse show (Etowah) and, memorably, my first horse show party in Wink’s old house.

Wink and his family were among my first mentors and along with their customers went out of their way to make this young, unknown family feel welcome. As I sat in my box last night, I saw Wink and Charlie Terry in their box and the memories came flooding back. Charlie had horses in training with Wink at the time.

I must say Charlie is still dressing the same but Wink does not look near as rambunctious.

A Celebration Moment

Veteran trainers Jimmy McConnell and Billy Gray gave us one for the ages in the second half of the Aged Stallion Class.

After the class was called to the lineup in the south turn, Gray and McConnell remained in the north turn waiting to make that final pass. Finally with the crowd going crazy, they made a memorable pass side by side down the west side to thunderous applause of the fans.

Now that’s a horse show!

Hats Off to Jack Greene

Official photographer Jack Greene is working with a real handicap this week, so much so that he needs a cane to get around in center ring.

Seems Jack had his knee “scoped” the week before the Celebration and the news was not good. Jack is facing a full knee replacement after the Celebration but is not letting that slow him down.

Jack has done a wonderful job at the Celebration for many years and his efforts under these trying circumstances attest to his commitment to the show and his physical courage.

Grown Men Don’t Cry

Oh yes they do . . . tears of joy!

Saturday night Mike Walden won his split of the novice class and the usual joking ex-cop was overwhelmed by the moment. With family and friends hugging and celebrating his unanimous tie, big tears began rolling down his cheeks.

Below his fun loving exterior, his is a competitor and he really wanted this blue and rode like it . . . and it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy!

The Celebration’s Ron Thomas and Charles McDonald decided to have a little fun with Mike after he won his class and was getting his presentation picture made in the ring.

Charles told him that there had been a mistake with the cards and “Ron wanted his ribbon back.” Mike calmly told Charles that if Ron Thomas wanted his ribbon back , he was gonna have to come out and get it.

Later in the evening, Mike told me that he considered riding around the ring with his blue ribbon until Ron had security come and get him.

You gotta love him!


I saw Anthony Joseph in World Champion Horse Equipment this past week and offered my condolences. Although he was obviously upset about losing such a fine animal, he was far more concerned with how his family was handling the loss.

A class guy with a great family!

T-Shirts and Bumper Stickers (LOL)

There have been some interesting and funny t-shirts and bumper stickers spotted on the Celebration grounds.

“My wild oats have turned to shredded wheat.”

Front of T-Shirt: “My husband and I divorced over religious differences.”

Back of T-Shirt: “He thought he was God and I didn’t.”

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