By Mark Davis

Well, the first evening of competition is in the record books and what an evening it was!  Three hundred thirty six horses traveled down the hill into the historic big oval, an increase of 46 over last year’s 290 and attendance numbers were almost equal to last year with about 10,300 on hand to enjoy the evening’s events, which lasted into Friday morning, with a good number of hard core fans staying around for the final class.

Tonight’s schedule features 14 classes, three less than last night, so hopefully things can get wrapped up prior to the midnight hour.  The invocation for the evening was given by Mark Pierce, pastor of the Horse Mountain Church of Christ of Shelbyville, Tenn., followed by the singing of the national anthem by Linda Furmanick of Lascassas, Tenn.

As official show horse Counterfeit Dollar and Bud Seaton made one final pass and headed back up the hill, and it was time to call the first class of the evening, class 47A, Owner-Amateur Youth Riders 6-11 Years on Walking Geldings.  Eight of the 17 expected made their way down to this historic big oval to work hard for the Friday evening crowd that was still making their way to the seats.  Judge Rollie Beard served as Call Judge for the section.  Ah, yes, the young riders were working hard for the crowd as well as organist Larry Bright played a little Hokey Pokey on the keyboard to encourage them along the way.  Generating a winning performance in the event was Solar Generated and Thomas Derickson, who captured the blue earlier this month at the Walking Horse Association of Alabama’s Futurity and Horse Show, riding to the winner’s circle for proud grandparents, Dr. & Mrs. John Brundige of Sugar Grove, Ill.  It was no trick, Card Trick and Alex Blackburn put on a very nice show to garner the red streamers for Bob Medina and Alex Blackburn of Skillman, N.J.  An Ideal Evening and Dustin Hall were third for Tammy Carter of Olive Branch, Miss.

Thomas Derickson and Solar Generated won the first blue ribbon of the night.

Class 47B, Owner-Amateur Youth Riders 6-11 Years on Walking Geldings brought 11 more young riders to the track to work hard for their chance to ride away with a Celebration blue tonight.  Judge Nathan Clark led the panel in this event.  Putting on a stellar performance, which placed them at the top of all five judges cards, Generated By Jose and Trey Blackburn pulled in the win in the section for the Dr. H.E. Barker family of Arab, Ala.  This win, coupled with their win in the same division in 2007, allowed them to retire The American General/Armed To Show Challenge Trophy, the Delight’s Sundance Challenge Trophy and the Sherra Elizabeth Burgess Memorial Challenge Trophy.  Certainly a lot of hardware for this young man!  This win capped off a great 2008 season in which the team picked up wins at Jackson, Miss.’s Mississippi Charity Horse Show, Panama City Beach, Fla.’s Gulf Coast Charity Celebration, Gallatin, Tenn.’s Lions Club Horse Show, Columbia, Tenn.’s Spring Jubilee, Woodbury, Tenn.’s Lions Club Horse Show and Wartrace, Tenn.’s Horse Show.  Bold Stroke’s Attraction and owner/exhibitor Hailey Puckett of Wartrace, Tenn., were a popular reserve.  Claire Ottman and Capone collected the golden streamers for the Dwight Ottman family of Owensboro, Ky.

The professional trainers made their first appearance of the evening in class 48, Two-Year-Old Walking Geldings, with 20 of the 36 on the books coming to show off for the Friday evening crowd as Judge Jamie Hankins called the gaits for the class.  Picking up the win in the event, and a popular decision it was with the crowd, was Jazz’s White Night and Charlie Green in the irons for Debra Coleman of Clemmons, N.C.  Looks like ole’ “Tightey Whitey” was just right tonight!  Sam Martin and Call Me Ted pulled into the second position for Jay McLaughlin of Florence, S.C.  Knox Blackburn and Muchos Colores were third for What A Blessing Farm! of Bristol, Tenn.

Back in the Amateur division, class 49 featured the Owner-Amateur Riders on Walking Stallions with 19 of the 60 with reservations working down from the warm up ring to work their hardest for their chance under the bright lights in center ring.  Judge Tommy Howell led the panel in the event.  Dominating the very good division was the duo of Jazzed Up and Brenda Bramlett, champions at 2008 at Columbia, Tenn.’s Spring Jubilee and reserve in this event at the 2007 Celebration, showing for Bramlett and Wilson of Shelbyville, Tenn.  Hydrostatic and owner/exhibitor Ann Bailey of Metairie, La., were a strong reserve.  On The Line and Suzanne Moore stopped in for the yellow ribbon for Bud and Suzanne Moore of Catherine, Ala.

The trainers were back for one of the classes the big Friday night crowd had been waiting on, class 50A, Three-Year-Old Walking Stallions.  The first section featured 26 of the 47 programmed entries coming in hopes of impressing the crowd and the judges, who would be led by Call Judge Mack Motes.  Putting on one great show was A Show Of Jazz and Joe Martin riding high in the saddle for Gus King of Arab, Ala. This team already chalked up a great 2008 with wins at Manchester, Tenn.’s Lions Club Horse Show, Arab, Ala.’s WHAA Summer Classic, Woodbury, Tenn.’s Lions Club Horse Show and Belfast, Tenn.’s Lions Club Horse Show. Ozone’s Full Throttle and Charlie Green picked up the red streamers for Ben and Dr. Lynda Brogdon of Tallahassee, Fla.  Gin And Juice and Joel Weaver were third for Rick and Marla Lovett of Mobile, Ala.

Class 50B, Three-Year-Old Walking Stallions brought 25 more teams in to show off for the crowd.  Judge Rollie Beard called the gaits in this section.  Walking the line to the winner’s circle in the section was Lined Walkin’ and Justin Harris, 2008 champions at Holly Springs, Miss., the Spring Fun Show and the Tony Rice Horse Show, collecting the honors for the Joey Tidwell family of Dallas, Ga.  Out All Night and John Allan Callaway was reserve for Dr. Harv Carlon of Lowell, Mich.  Mickey McCormick and Nine Yard Blitz were third for Tim and Laura Cochran of Chatsworth, Ga.

Lined Walkin' and Justin Harris were met by Joe Fleming after winning the B split of the Three Year old Stallion class.
The Park Performance entries were up for class 51, Park Performance Walking Horses, Four Years and Under with 14 of the 22 on the sheets making their way down the hill to work for Judge Nathan Clark and his cohorts.  Making a statement loud and clear, High Fashion Statement and Patrick Thomas made the outstanding performance to top the event for Jamie and Patrick Gardner of Bridgewater, Va.  The High Maintenance Lady and Brock Tillman were reserve for Randall and Gloria Dixon/Red Eagle Farm of Dacula, Ga.  Bruce Hankins and Knight’s Gambler collected the yellow streamers for Bruce Hankins and Mose Jobe of Lewisburg and Nashville, Tenn.

The young riders were back on hand for class 52, Owner-Amateur Youth Riders 6-14 Years on Walking Ponies.  Seventeen of the 30 on the books made their way down to the big oval to work for the excited crowd and the attentive judges, led in the event by Call Judge Jamie Hankins.  Proving sometimes it takes a little finesse to impress, Eagle Finess and Tyler Baucom certainly did impress, just as they did at Tazewell, Va.’s Tazewell County Classic, to pick up the win for Jada Polk and Tyler Baucom of Midland, N.C.  Analisa Cooper and Halter Ego were a strong reserve for Alicia Cooper of Mt. Juliet, Tenn.  Frankie Blue Eyes and Samantha Bell were third for Jerry Bell of Parsons, Tenn.

The classic horses of the show ring, those 15 years of age or over, were up next on the schedule with 13 of the 19 with reservations hitting the track to work for Call Judge Tommy Howell and his panel.  Our industry is one of the few horse industries that have a large number of older horses actively showing and winning day after day, week after week and year after year.  It is truly a testament to the Tennessee Walking Horse breed.  Capturing the win in this excellent class of horses were Sunrise At Midnight and Debra Coleman taking the honors home to Clemmons, N.C.  It’s been a good night for Coleman as her Jazz’s White Night won the Two-Year-Old Gelding event with trainer Charlie Green earlier in the evening.  Brett Jones and Generator’s Champion, who’s often still seen picking up Stake class wins in Middle Tennessee with trainer Joel Weaver, was reserve for Brett and Lisa Jones of Tylertown, Miss.  Network and owner/exhibitor Lisa Baum of Shelbyville, Tenn., were third.

Class 54 featured the Elite Owner-Amateur Gentleman Riders on Walking Mares or Geldings with 18 of the 27 on the books walking down to the big oval to work for the silver in the division.  Judge Mack Motes served as Call Judge for the class.  High Jacked and Jim Baum made the outstanding ride to collect the win in the division for Lisa Baum of Shelbyville, Tenn.  Hey Hey Ole’ and owner/exhibitor Bob Medina of Skillman, N.J., were close behind in the reserve position.  I’m Stan The Man and Ben Brogdon picked up the golden streamers for Ben and Dr. Linda Brogdon of Tallahassee, Fla. 

Class 55 featured the Four-Year-Old Walking Geldings (Canter) with 11 of the 18 expected beating the clock to work for Call Judge Rollie Beard and his cohorts.  Taking home the honors and the whole shabang in the division was Jose’s Whole Shabang and Charlie Green making the stellar performance for J & J Enterprise/Joyce Meadows and Joyce Myers of Atlanta, Ga., and Shelbyville, Tenn.  Oops On Parole and Ray Gilmer pulled in for the red ribbon for the Tommy Jowers family of Leesburg, Ga.  George Clooney and Scott Beaty collected the yellow streamers for the Fred Allred family of Jamestown, Tenn.

Charlie Green had some help from daughter, Kounti, as he exited the ring after his win on Jose's Whole Shabang.

Giving a little variety to the evening, the Park Pleasure entries took to the track in the historic big oval for class 56, Owner-Amateur Riders on Park Pleasure Walking Horses.  Nineteen of the 32 who called ahead made their way in to work for their chance at acclaim from the 70th annual Celebration.  Judge Nathan Clark led the panel in the event.  Gaining the approval of all five judges and taking the win back out west was He’s On Georgia Time and Kelly Gordon up for Stonegait Farms of Orange, Calif.  Fog At The Ritz and Lauren Hamilton rode into the second position for Sisson and Hamilton of Beech Bluff and Murfreesboro, Tenn.  The Silver Bandit and Kim Leonard were third for Scott and Kim Leonard of Greendale, Wis.

Kelly Gordon topped a large class to win the blue in the Owner-Amateur Riders on Park Pleasure Walking Horses class.

It was the ladies turn to take center stage in class 57, Owner-Amateur Lady Riders on Walking Mares with 17 of the 38 programmed entries working to the rail to work under the watchful eye of Judge Jamie Hankins and his panel.  Making that sentimental journey down victory lane tonight was My First Dollar and George-Ann Pratt in the irons for Don Pratt of Shawnee Mission, Kansas.  This victory came by way of an unanimous decision of the judging panel and was preceded by victories at the National Trainers’ Show, Gulf Coast Charity Celebration and the Spring Fun Show.  A High Dollar Charge and owner/exhibitor Beverly Sherman of Dallas, Texas were reserve, while the Western Kentucky team of Genie’s Charming Lady and Connie Johns accepted third for Jim Bill and Connie Johns of Franklin, Ky.

The final class of the evening, class 58, featured the Plantation Pleasure Walking Horses, Lite Shod, Riders 18 Years and Over.  Seventeen of the 24 expected made that trip down one final time of the night to work for that one final blue of the night.  Judge Tommy Howell called the gaits in the event.  Designing a winning performance were Elegance By Design and Mark Lambert riding for Nancy Lovato of Lehi, Utah.  This outstanding mare topped the 50 and Over Lite Shod earlier today with owner Nancy Lovato.  Honor My Cash and Patrick Thomas were in the second position for Debbie and Don Parmer of Elizabethtown, Pa.  Double Java and Scott Benham were third for Mike and Kathy Chiappari/Shiloh Walkers of Santa Rosa, Calif.

Mark Lambert and Elegance By Design won the last blue of the evening on Friday night in the Pleasure Walking Horses, Lite Shod, Riders 18 Years and Over class. 

With that final class complete, it was time to head out back to old warm up ring for the Celebration Street Party featuring Karaoke from BJ’s Karaoke sponsored by Spencer Benedict Stables.  Remember, the fun will continue again on Saturday night and next Thursday, Friday and Saturday night with Street Party fun and entertainment at the old warm up ring, just behind the big oval, near the barn office.

Attendance was strong this evening with paid attendance of 20,454 and actual attendance of 13,691, up about 5,000 from last year’s first Friday night when things were more than just a little rainy in Shelbyville.

Saturday evening will certainly be another exciting night as we get to take our first glimpse at the Aged Stallion contenders and see what next Saturday night will hold and just who will be in contention for the 2008 World Grand Championship.  Will it be those we suspect or may we just be surprised. Sunday promises to be just as eventful on the show grounds with the Worship Service at 7:45 am, the Celebration Dog Show at 12:30 pm and the Stable Judging at 1 pm.  Of course, the horse show will continue Sunday night at 7pm and will be highlighted by the Four-Year-Old Walking Stallion preliminary.  There’s fun and excitement everywhere, that’s what makes this one great Celebration!