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Strawberry Festival Makes 70th Gate Call



 

by Vicki Benjamin
 
            May 11, 2007, marks the 70th anniversary of the West Tennessee Strawberry Festival and Horse Show in Humboldt, Tenn. The festival began as a two-day event to help boost a failing strawberry crop industry. The objective was to make Humboldt the center of industry in West Tennessee and to make the Humboldt berry the high standard of excellence by which all berries would be measured. The festival planners hoped to encourage better growing, packing and handling of strawberry crops in an effort to increase their market value and boost the local economy.
            Over the years, events have been added and the 2007 festival will be held for seven days, May 6-12. Humboldt, with a population of around 10,000, will be host to approximately 100,000 people as they enjoy events such as concerts, parades, luncheons, barbeque cook-off, carnival, pageants, 5K and 10K runs, tractor and car shows, arts and crafts shows, recipe contest, golf and checker tournaments and, of course, the horse show.
            The founding fathers included a horse show in festival events from the very beginning. The first show was sponsored by the Sunrise Bridle Club, a ladies saddle club. Horse lovers and enthusiasts from miles around flocked to Humboldt to exhibit their horses. It was a grand affair. The evenings in May can be cool in West Tennessee, and the ladies brought out their fine furs for the event. The early shows offered classes for many breeds, but as the popularity of the walking horse became apparent, the show changed to accommodate.
            The horse show is held at the Chalmus Davenport Arena. Chalmus Davenport, James Davenport and Neil Robinson were some of the local trainers that supported the show in earlier years. They trained horses out of the Humboldt barns of Dr. J.W. Oursler, Jamie McLemore and Dr. Harold G. Barker. Carol Barker Robinson of Memphis and Dr. Grey Barker of Murfreesboro carry on their family tradition by being active in the walking horse industry currently.
            Today the show offers classes from yearlings at halter to aged horses including lite shod, plantation and juvenile classes. The show begins at 6 p.m. with a costumed pet parade that is always fun. In years past, the parade has boasted an iguana, a pony, many dogs and cats and an adorable goat in a pink tutu. Children ages 11 and under enjoy dressing themselves and their pet for this event. Opening ceremonies are at 6:30 p.m. Miss Tennessee, Blaire Pancake, will sing the national anthem and be available for a brief autograph session.
            Arrive early and enjoy dinner. The Kiwanis Club will be serving hamburgers, cheeseburgers, bologna and hotdogs fresh off of the grill. Homemade cakes, pies, cookies and strawberry shortcakes will satisfy any sweet tooth. A local berry farmer will have fresh strawberries for sale.
            Due to a slow and shaky start to the 2007 show season, the West Tennessee Strawberry Festival Horse Show will be one of the first points show for the Mid-South Horse Show Association and the Purchase Area Horseman’s Association. Come and join in the tradition as the show celebrates 70 years of admiration for the majestic Tennessee Walking Horse.
 

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