By Linda Scrivner

      PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. - A tremendous audience and 509 entries from across the nation converged on Panama City Beach, Fla., for the fifth annual Gulf Coast Charity Horse Show and Festival. Between the fabulous food, warm weather, exciting entertainment and the sandy beaches, this show is one that many attend to break in the 2003 show season, while taking the opportunity to get a tan and view some great horses.  

      The horse show is about helping the people of northwest Florida. During the last four years the horse show has given $311,000 to area charities, educational institutions and various civic organizations stated Sister Blackmon Milligan, Gulf Coast Charity Celebration Committee Horse Show and Music Festival President.

      We have worked hard to provide you with a world class horse show and special event in hopes that you will want to attend our event each year, she continued.  Milligan also said that the efforts of those who have supported and contributed to the show are primarily responsible for the many national awards the show has received including: the 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2002 Best Multi-Day Show, by readers of the Walking Horse Report; the 1999 and 2002 Reserve Multi-Day Horse Show of the Year, by the Walking Horse Trainers' Association; the 2001 and 2002 Best Multi-Day Horse Show, by the Walking Horse Trainers' Association; and the 2001 Emerald Award of Excellence in Show Management, by Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders' & Exhibitors' Association.

      "We want to thank each of you because your active participation is the key to the synergy of our past success and to our future," said Milligan.

      This year's event was held April 24-26, 2003,  at the newly built facilities at the Frank Brown Park. Tons of gravel and red sand brought to the park in the days prior to the show and a hard surface arena helped to make this show a huge success. There were only a few parking issues, but most people enjoyed their walk to the park in the Florida sun.  

      The festivities started with a warm welcome reception at the home of Tommy and Sister Milligan on Wednesday evening for trainers, exhibitors and owners with a tremendous array of food, entertainment and a calcutta on the Two-Year-Old divisions with a percentage of the benefits going to charity. On the schedule of events were restaurants, bands each evening before and after the show and an entertaining pre-show featuring the comic stylings of Wade Henry.

      Phillip Wilson, Sam Sorrel, and Scott Benham officiated the three-day show with many unanimous decisions throughout the 50 classes.  In the final class Saturday evening, the judges worked nine horses for the Walking Horse Championship title. 2003 Conroe, Texas Grand Champion, The Snowatch and Dick Peebles were chosen to wear the roses following a second running walk. The Reserve Grand Championship spot was won by the team of The American General and Larry Edwards and third was awarded to the 2002 Gulf Coast Grand Champions, The Black Night Shade and Jimmy McConnell.  The crowd rose to their feet, cheering for their favorites throughout this exciting event.  

      Sammy Day Stables and Jimmy McConnell's Formac Stables topped the blue ribbon count with five titles each. Sammy Day Stables presented Chicago and Liz Hainer Underwood to two unanimous performances. First this team wowed the crowd in the 12 entry Amateur Stallions Specialty class and then again in the Amateur Specialty Championship on Saturday evening. This team also claimed title to a 2003 Trainers' Show blue and continued to be the talk of the show. 

      Silver's Boogie Woman added the Amateur Mares or Geldings, 15.2 & Under Specialty title to her Jackson, Miss., win under the new ownership of Kenneth and David Warner. David Warner directed her victory pass under Day's guidance to win the first blue at the Gulf Coast Charity Show in a field of 13. 

      Sammy Day debuted Willie Mays to a blue ribbon performance in the Two-Year-Old Stallions class.  Rusty Hyneman recently purchased this black stallion to add to his showstring. Following his Jackson, Miss. victory, the team of Sammy Day and WGC Gen's Johnny Walker Red made a superb performance to win the Stallions, 15.2 and Under unanimously. 

      Jimmy McConnell of Formac Stables won both divisions of the Three-Year-Old Stallions.  First, he directed Twisted Dollar to the top of the 16 entry Three-Year-Old Stallions class; next, he added the Three-Year-Old Stallion Extravaganza title unanimously with Dragonfly in a class of ten top entries.   

      Mary Medina claims ownership to Dragonfly, as well as the Pro-Am Specialty Champion, Barracuda.  Twenty-one teams made the gate call, in which Mary Medina and Jimmy McConnell were crowned unanimously as they both directed this world champion gelding to another title. Bob Medina was not to be outdone, however and he and his Regal's Lady Of Royalty were crowned Plantation Pleasure Lite-Shod Specialty winners.  

      McConnell's daughter, Stacy Blackburn, had a unanimous victory in the Trainers' Auxiliary Members Specialty aboard I'm A 5 Star General to win the fifth blue of the show for Formac.

      Doug Barnes of Blue Ribbon Stables returned to Shelbyville, Tenn., with four blues. WC Jose Quervo Gold and Bob Lawrence won their first blue of the show in the Amateur Lite-Shod Specialty, Four-Years & Under unanimously to begin a great show for the ownership of Lawrence and Hutto. 

      She's Breathtaking returned home with two Gulf Coast blues. She and Bob Lawrence captured the Amateur Park Pleasure Specialty title. This team is prepared by trainer Doug Barnes.  "Matilda" claimed victory once again in the Amateur Park Pleasure Specialty Championship to exit the ring with the roses. 

      Doug Barnes made a blue ribbon debut aboard Hernando Gold in the Three-Year-Old and Under unanimously. This youngster is a full brother to WC Jose Quervo Gold.

      Five stables returned home with triple blues: Baucom Stables, Carl Edwards & Sons Stables, Finish Line Farm, Rae Martin Stables and Laurie Toone of Circle T Stables from Spangle, Wash. WGC Electrifying returned to Panama City to win blues just as he had the previous two seasons. Dona Griffin proudly directed this Baucom Stables' protege to the top of the 13 entry Amateur Specialty, 50 and Over class.

      On Friday evening the team of Olympic Pusher and Chad Baucom captured the exciting Four-Year-Old Stallion title, following their recent unanimous South Carolina Ladies Auxiliary Four-Year-Old victory. Winning their third consecutive Gulf Coast Charity blue was the team of Cameo Cash and Rhonda Warren.  They claimed the Amateur Four-Year-Old Mares or Geldings Specialty among 15 of the best with a unanimous victory. 

      Carl Edwards and Sons Stables earned the first of their three blues in the 14 entry Two-Year-Old Mares or Geldings class. Larry Edwards directed this talented filly by Neon Deon around the ring with a flawless performance and victory pass to the cheers of the crowd.

      The 11 and Under Youth class had 15 hard riding youngsters, all determined to win, but the judges' selection was the prestigious team of little Maisie McSwain and Gen's Burning Rage, prepared by Edwards Stables.  This was McSwain's second victory ride aboard this talented horse. Larry Edwards directed another Dan McSwain family entry, WC Armed To Show, down victory lane in the Four-Year-Old Mares or Geldings class. They were selected unanimously.

      Under Finish Line Farms' direction, Lucky Collins presented Pushover & Lookout to a unanimous blue in the Open Amateur division. Rodney Dick had a unanimous win in the Mares & Geldings, 15.2 and Under, with multi-world champion Gen's Color Me In. 

      Susan Coleman made a fabulous catch ride aboard Armed Lady to win over 13 head of Amateur Mare Specialty contenders from Finish Line Farm.

      Renaissance Farms and Rae Martin Stables had triple winners. On Thursday evening, 16 entries answered the gate call for the Amateur Three-Year-Old Mares or Geldings class.  The team of Tricia Timmons and Skywatch's Dark N Stormy claimed victory of Timmons' first Panama City blue. Timmons began her showring career in June of 2002, and was thrilled with this victory.

      Skywatch's Dark N Stormy returned on Friday night with her young trainer, Sam Martin, to claim the title in the Three-Year-Old Mares or Geldings class of thirteen entries. Imagine Tricia Timmons' excitement after winning not one, but two Gulf Coast blues. Her second was won aboard Santana's Hurricane in the Amateur Two-Year-Old Mares or Geldings class.

      Laurie Toone of Circle T Stables in Spangle, Wash., made the long trek to Florida to enjoy the sun, hospitality and three Gulf Coast blues-with one horse.  A Common Denominator and Toone were crowned Gulf Coast Lite-Shod Grand Champions on Saturday night. They also won the Open Lite-Shod class and the Western Lite-Shod Specialty in an across the board ride.  

      Dual blues were won by Derickson Training and Breeding Facility, Jennifer Hankins of Hankins Stables, Whitter Stables and Robert Nelms of Nelms Training Facility.

      Derickson's Training and Breeding Facility's champions came in the form of Pushing That Jazz and Sarah Dunn as they carried out the blue in the Amateur Geldings Specialty class with 23 entries.  This team was also 2002 Gulf Coast Champions. 

        WC Cut The Smoke and Brenda Carlon also proudly bore Derickson honors as they claimed the 12 entry 15.2 and Under Amateur Stallion blue.

      The team of A Greater Generator and Jennifer Hankins made two unanimous Gulf Coast performances. On Thursday evening they won the Park Pleasure Open and returned on Saturday to wear the roses in the Park Pleasure Championship.

      The big bay gelding Slick Willie claimed two Gulf Coast classes for Whitter Stables. On Thursday evening Jackie McConnell directed the bay gelding to the top of the Mares or Gelding class. On Saturday Brad East directed Slick Willie to another blue. They captured the Youth 12-17  blue from 13 competitors. 

      Robert Nelms of Nelms Training Facility made a clean sweep of the halter classes.  He captured the Yearlings & Weanling Stallions first with Mardi Gras Magic unanimously; then returned to win the Mares Yearling and Weanlings with Tantalizing Touch with another unanimous win.  

      The remaining single blues were won by top stables all over the United States who traveled to Florida for the sand, sea and in search of the well sought after blues. Sonny Scrivner directed the high-headed Pushing Everything & More to a unanimous victory in the Fine Harness division from Tan View Stables.

      Seventeen Four-Year-Old Amateur Stallions made Mike Walden and He's Wild Eyed & Wicked ride hard for the blue from David Landrum Stables. This unanimous victory followed their recent Jackson, Miss., debut to the blue. Jerry Collier rode hard on Who's Keeping Score to make their blue ribbon victory pass in the 14 entry Show Pleasure Specialty class. 

      Richard Boone and JFK Master Spy wore the blue from the ring in the 20 entry Three-Year-Old Amateur Stallions division under the guidance of Steve Hankins Stables. This year the Gulf Coast Charity Show added a new class, the Piper Heidseick's $1,000 Champagne class with the winner taking it all.  Knox Blackburn had the smoothest ride on daughter Alex and son EvanÕs mount, Pride's Smoking Memory. He exited the ring with the money following a ride carefully holding his valuable drinkto ensure that none would spill.

      Silver's Spinal Tap and Chip Carrier were the unanimous team in the Amateur Lite-Shod Specialty class. David Hendricks earned the victory pass unanimously aboard The Skywalker in the Amateur Owned & Trained Specialty.  Topping the 15 entry Stallions Specialty class was the popular team of He's A Rebel and Dick Myers.  

      Another unusual class that attracted 17 entries was the Adult Amateur Riders on Walking Ponies. Kathy Potter and Titan Up continue to be a major threat wherever they show. Rising to the top of the Western Park Pleasure Specialty with a unanimous tie were WC Double Your Money and Leigh Bennett.

      The new team of Lee Wall and I'm Armed & Lethal continue to be deadly as they ride their way through their 2003 season with two shows and two blues. They wore the blue proudly from the 17 entry Amateur Show Pleasure Specialty on Saturday evening. 

      Final Keeper and Morgan LeGate made a unanimous ride to win the 13 entry Walking Ponies, Riders 17 and Under, under the tutelage of Justin LeGate. Highland Stables of Bowling Green, Ky., were thrilled when Chris Mosley directed Just Jazz to the top of the 11 entry Two-Year-Old Amateur Stallions unanimously. 

      The three main enjoyments at Panama City are the seafood, sea water, and seeing horses. If you haven't attended this event, you're missing quite a unique opportunity. Patty Hainer, owner of Chicago, said, "They've treated us like royalty since we've been here. We'll be back."