From The Desk of Ron Thomas

Each year during the annual Celebration suggestion boxes are placed in the barn office, the gift shop, and at the reception desk in the Administrative Office Building. We usually receive 150 to 175 suggestions and comments. As you might guess the heavy majority of these are negative in nature. That is simply the way it is, and we have no problem with that and appreciate any comment when someone takes enough time to put their thoughts on paper and share them with us. The purpose of this article is to share with you a sampling of the comments we get in each area and give the options to some of these suggestions. The various suggestions and comments are broken down into specific areas so that the Celebration staff can focus on improving and be more specific as to what the suggestions and comments are designed to be.    

Calsonic Arena: 

Air conditioning the Calsonic Arena. You will get much better attendance during the day classes. You are going to lose some business to other arenas that are cooler. 

CEO Comments: Without question the majority of the people feel we need to air-condition Calsonic Arena. We agree with them. That would be great. It all comes down to money. In many separate reports we have indicated the reason Calsonic Arena cannot be air-conditioned. The cost to put air conditioning would be approximately $400,000.00. This is a number that is manageable and could be handled. The problem comes in the monthly utilities. We would have a demand charge from TVA in the neighborhood of $25,000.00 to $30,000.00 per month if we go to air condition that arena. We would have to pay this $25,000.00 to $30,000.00 per month even if we never turned on the air conditioner. It is a demand charge that would be levied against us because of the fact that TVA must have the power there in the event we do decide to use it. Certainly this $30,000.00 a month fee makes it totally financially unfeasible. We regularly study different and new ways of moving air in that arena. We will continue to do so as we also know that it is hot and it is uncomfortable.    

Outdoor Arena: 

Replace the rusty and broken chairs in the boxes. Some are so bad you can’t sit in them. 

CEO Comments: We have not done a good job in this area, and we pledge a better effort in 2005. Our “grounds crew” that puts chairs in the arena and removes them after the show is an independent contractor. They don’t share the same interest in our facility that we do, and we’ve got to monitor this situation better regarding the discarding of old chairs and addition of new ones. There will be an improvement here in 2005.  


Please add the new class “Plantation Performance” or “Park Performance”. 

Need to start on Tuesday. Start the big show on Wednesday night at 6:00 p.m. 

Start the show at least an hour earlier. 

Park Classes…why always first or last? 

Length of classes greatly improved…good job. 

Please put the Park Pleasure night classes in during the show…not the very last class. All the people (crowd) are gone. If people see the Park Division they may get interested which in turn increases the price of our horses. It’s all in letting folks see them. 

CEO Comment: There have been may requests for new classes. There are always various interests in new classes and divisions. We simply cannot add all of them. We review this very carefully and add new classes when it appears they are popular enough in our industry to be successful at The Celebration. We’ve studied with great interest in starting a day earlier and at this point the Board of Directors has decided to stay with the ten nights. The majority of the people that we talk with do not want us to add an extra day. This year by doing a better job on time-outs we were able to save over four hours of show time, which was basically an entire evenings performance. We will try to improve on this even more in 2005. It would be almost impossible to start the show prior to 7:00 p.m. The morning sessions, which have become afternoon sessions, are not over until 1:30 or 2:00 o’clock. It would be extremely difficult for those trainers having horses in both sessions to leave a 2:00 p.m. session, return to their barn, get horses ready for the evening, get themselves ready, and be here for a 6:00 p.m. session. It is just almost impossible. Additionally, there are four or five sales going on during the Celebration, and they have been most respective of not allowing their sales to reach a point that they interfere with our evening classes. We owe them the same respect in that we do not have our evening performances interfere with their sales. We try to honor that request. Some of the lite-shod, trail pleasure, and park pleasure classes were later in the evening in 2004 because the majority of our fans are asking for other classes to be held a little earlier in the program. We are trying to accommodate the wishes of a great number of people when we prepare a class schedule, and we will continue to review this in great detail. 


The grounds are not kept clean…to much litter under bleachers…shame, shame. 

There should be more trashcans around the grounds. 

Stop watering the streets. 

Cut the water trucks…messy. 

Please stop putting so much water on the roads on show nights…our clothes are a mess. 

Requests for trailers on last night to wait one hour after show for cars to leave the show grounds. 

CEO Comments: If we are not doing a good job of keeping our grounds clean and professional, I assure you that we will work extremely hard in this area. We pride ourselves on having a beautiful show grounds, and we will work diligently to improve in this area. We must have a balance between enough trashcans and too many trashcans. Certainly we don’t like debris piled around the trashcans after an evening performance, but we can’t put so many trashcans under the west grandstands that people can’t manipulate around them. We’ve investigated the possibility of having a crew come during the show and empty the trashcans, and although this may be our best alternative it is extremely difficult to do with so much congestion and traffic on our key nights. We will watch this one closely. We have also got to do a better job of utilizing our water trucks during the show. Many people say they would rather have dust than too much water on the streets. I assure you that we do not want a dusty show grounds, nor do we want muddy show grounds and having people upset about the water on our streets. We are going to look at this closely prior to 2005 to determine if there is not a more efficient way of watering our streets so that they will be dust free during the majority of the evening performance.  


If you are going up on camping spaces…you need to do some work over there in RV #1. 

Please install Charter Cable in campground #1. 

Please consider putting cable hookups at the camper sites. 

CEO Comments: We will continue to monitor the cost of our RV spots. We certainly don’t want them too expensive and, we will review this carefully as we do all of our pricing policies each year. Charter has indicated an interest in considering cable in some of our RV areas. This would be extremely expensive for The Celebration to do, possibly Charter can find an avenue to do this and develop an appropriate revenue stream for it. This is a great suggestion. 

Center Ring: 

Music louder. 

Turn the loud speakers down in big ring…way to loud. 

I would like to hear the state songs.  

Please alternate the line-up between both ends of the ring. Almost all classes line up at the south end. 

Grooms/attendants should not be allowed to enter the ring unless properly dressed…I do not consider sleeveless undershirts proper dress. 

CEO Comments: We try to alternate some of the classes between both ends of the ring. We have to be extremely careful when horses are lined up in the north turn because some horses see the entry/exit gate and want to go to the barn. We are especially careful in this regard with amateurs and youth exhibitors. We did see some grooms in attendance in center ring this year that were very inappropriately dressed. I will direct this to the attention of the Walking Horse Trainers’ Board of Directors, and I’m optimistic that they will work with us to see that these people are more appropriately clothed. 


Parking passes for the barn area. I was a victim of a false barn pass. Make the car passes with the paper like the horse registration paper, where “copy” is printed on the copies if duplicated. 

CEO Comments: The Fire Marshall, the Police Chief, and our security department were all proud of our accomplishments in the area of barn parking. It was so refreshing to hear that vehicles could easily drive down the streets this year, as they should be able to. We will look at this very carefully for 2005, and we intend to make an even bigger step toward acceptability of parking in the barn area in 2005.  


Paint Water Tower. 

The Celebration needs a mail drop box on the grounds during the Celebration. 

Maps of all area roads leading to Shelbyville…motels also. 

It would be very helpful to have a map of the grounds. 

Each exhibitor should be issued a map of barn areas and a list of exhibitors. 

Please print out map layout of the facility. 

CEO Comments: It appears that there are many concerns about a map of our grounds and of the local area. This will get attention for 2005.  


Judging to be more consistent and more educated with flat shod horses. 

Make horse judging more fair and consistent. 

In Class 74B, Four Year Old Stallions, I saw a horse mess up right in front of a judge and still got first. The second place horse didn’t make a mistake that I saw. The first place horse messed up twice that I saw. 

CEO Comments: A controversial issue, and everyone at The Celebration understands that. The judges have a very difficult job. It seems to become more difficult each year as the quality of horses is improved and more and more horses are capable of winning. This is a great problem to have, but we must be careful in how we deal with it. 

Let’s specifically look at Class 74B. The horse in question did break once in front of a judge, and on another occasion took the wrong lead in the canter in front of a judge. This judge did not place the horse on the card. The other four judges placed the horse first. They did not witness the horse having trouble of any kind, and they felt his performance was indicative of a blue ribbon. In my opinion, this is the way judging should be. The person that saw the missed steps did not use the horse, and the other four that saw a very nice performance tied the horse appropriately. I was proud of the judge in this class that did his job in such a professional and proper manner.  


New, roomier west grandstand seating. 

Outlaw stadium seats that take up room on the seats behind them. 

CEO Comments: We are presently studying west grandstand seating once again. We are doing our best to find a way to allow for chair backs to be in that grandstand realizing that the depth of each isle cannot be changed. It is a difficult task, but we are monitoring it as closely as we possibly can. We realize that people in the west grandstands need better accommodations, and I am confident that we are going to get there. 


My goodness…no ATM Machine to serve all these people…geez! 

Need two ATM Machines on the show grounds. 

CEO Comments: We will encourage Union Planters to place an ATM Machine here for the next Celebration. We understand that at times it is important to have that available, and we will make every effort to accommodate our fans regarding the ATM Machines. 


We are grateful to have such a wonderful fan base that is so passionate about the horse and its world championship show. The more feedback we have the harder we try. We are thankful that people want to take time to use one of the five suggestion boxes that we have around the grounds and make their feelings known to management. 

We encourage you to bring us your thoughts and comments at any time during the year, not just in the ten days of the event. Write us directly or use the “Ask The Celebration” section of our website at