By Sadie Fowler

As if an appearance by Betty Sain weren’t enough, class after class of Wednesday evening’s agenda featured entertainment and excitement with a backdrop setting that was nothing short of comfort and contentment. 
The Fine Harness competition once again kicked off the start of show time and In Ted’s Image and Bill Callaway were clearly working double duty for Celebration 2019 as they showed up with class and style for the first win of the night. Kudos For Cash and Larry Edwards were right on the money for Toni White’s reserve ribbon.  

“Let’s honor our winner, let’s Honor My Country” … that was the message Mark Farrar delivered as Stephanie White wore a blue-ribbon smile out of the ring after working hard to play the positioning game well, including making the very last pass to ensure she and her pride-filled partner were seen and the ones to eventually win the A division of the 11-horse A split of the Amateur Three-Year-Old Mares and Geldings. All the ribbon holders were household names in this class and gave the judges the difficult task of paying attention to details, no one more so than Molly Walters, who takes her job seriously even while dancing — with her equine partner, I’m Dancin’ For Dollars. 

The B division of the same class mirrored in the way of quality and also showcased 11 entries, all with the well-deserved talent to be in Maverick Arena and putting luck as a key factor in the outcome of the class. In the end, it was luck that was certainly backed by hard work and talent as America Strong and Lucky Collins didn’t disappoint their fanbase for the win. She’s Charismatic and Ashley Mezrano edged out the good crowd for reserve.

The Walking Geldings Five and Over (Canter) followed the emotional presentation of the WHTA Auxiliary’s Award to Sarah Smith with five aged geldings making the gate call with seasoned riders capably directing each of them. All had their place on the rail and a fair shot at the Celebration world championship but it’s hard to look past the quality of Country And Famous, who very much has already made a Celebration name for himself. On Wednesday, he paired up in perfect fashion as he gave John Allan Callaway a comfortable ride for the win while owners Rick and Marla Lovett proudly cheered on. Also showing up with his consistent showman’s ability, Jamie Lawrence put in a Celebration-worthy performance once again and received a respectful applause for his polished silver on It’s The Medalist for owner Ray Solley. 

Nine beautiful babies experienced a moment of foreshadowing as they perked up with innocence and wonder to take their place on the Celebration stage for the Weanling World Grand Championship. There were a lot of pretty babies that proved to be paving the way for the future and well-established handlers at their side, but there was only one that could wear that pivoted tricolor ribbon. Here, the Celebration bragging rights went to Backroads, with Amanda Wright handling for the Dr. George Wright family. Also making an excellent Celebration debut this year, the crowd helped keep the flow moving with their applause as they cheered loudly for the entertaining efforts of  reserve finishers Luchador and Jaron Dotson, who’d already considered this Celebration the one that would stand out for the rest of time. 

Last night featured the young trainers, and on Wednesday, a slot was reserved for the “experienced” guys, those 36 and over. If you thought it was a high-stake showdown last night, you weren’t prepared for tonight’s 13-entry battle with the industry’s elite showing up for the real deal. Like fine wine, as they say … it only got better as The Lonestar Legend and Charlie Green did their thing for the win for the many proud folks cheering them on, including owner Sister Milligan. Kenny Smith was the call judge, but all five on the panel had their work cut out with them to tie the class. Also demonstrating experience without losing the freshness it takes to perform to please, Cash Agenda and Brent Coburn walked out with the wonder and excitement of a Celebration reserve for Al and Brenda Morgan. 

The Walking Horse Trainers’ Members on Walking Horses featured nine ladies wearing their hearts on their sleeves and putting in the sweat equity we all know takes place each day in their support of the industry. All were worthy, including We Will Rock You and Amy Trimble. Together the duo marched and walked to the blue ribbon beat only the Celebration crowd knows. Epic and Megan Davis showed their serious focus as the reserve finishers.

No one could fault the charismatic nature of anyone in the nine-entry Walking Horses Mares and Geldings class that really got the crowd heated up as the weather cooled. Equally, who can beat the horsemanship of Jimmy McConnell, who on Wednesday night did what he does best as he positioned Manning for the game-winning play for Kelsey Andrews. The reserve ribbon belonged to another seasoned pro, Gary Edwards and I Got Your Back for Stephanie White. 

The Amateur Owned and Trained Specialty put on a show in the next class, where a solid 10-entries showed up and delivered. Representing our neighbors just down the road, Newton Parks of Murfreesboro cruised in for the win riding  Puttin It On The Line while I’m Gus McRae and Cindy Bryant walked to the reserve finish.
The Young Trainers 35 and Under on Mares and Geldings featured 11-entries and when the cards were turned in the cheering section stood tall as Miss Dixie Carter and Clayton Davis turned heads and rode away with the well-deserved blue for Walters and Gribble, while Nathan Rymer was on the money to secure reserve with his primed up partner, I’m In The Cash, for Karen Mitchell. 

The Amateur Walking Stallions (Canter) class culminated with fan favorites, who are also familiar with the color blue, in the winner’s circle once again. While Led Zeppelin and Abby Fox jammed out of Maverick Arena in winning style, another skillful pair who knows how to work the ring like the best of them, The Iron Door and Sarah Coffee Burks, closed out the rest of the competition for reserve. 

The six-entry Walking Horse Stallions class served as the finale of the evening and it came with a question mark, but in all the right ways. Really Coach? Yes, really … Rodney Dick performed with excellence as always, this time riding for Denny Russell. N V Us and John Allan Callaway finished reserve for Scott and Kim Leonard, closing out what was nothing short of in line with “The Celebration.”