By Sadie Fowler 

It’s amazing how fast a week can go by, nothing more so than the Celebration when you’re tuning in to all it offers. On Thursday night, entering championship weekend, 14 classes starred on the agenda with a healthy number of special guests visiting the pageantry prior to the show, including many representing the state’s agricultural leaders as well as educational. Just one of many moments held on behalf of their honor was the pre-show TWHBEA gathering, where several dignitaries enjoyed a delightful atmosphere thanks to the planners of the event.

Dee Yoder is one who has been in the headlines of the 2019 Celebration and for the first class of the night she starred with He’s High Maintenance for the first world grand championship in the Amateur Country Pleasure Five and Under kickoff. Social media isn’t the only place for a hashtag, as proved true by Celebration staple Hashtag and WhitLei Green, who  followed in the ribbon ranks for reserve honors. The novice riders on novice trail pleasure horses followed on the agenda with duty on the line as Carolina Chrome and Brandon Tate captured the judges’ approval after a polished performance for Borg and Tate. Also making their many fans proud, Duke Energy and Linda Sisk showed up with precision and elegance as they wore the reserve world grand championship streamers out of the ring. 

The Park Pleasure World Grand Championship wrapped up with Dose’ and Patrick Thomas making the ride under the spotlight, following up their win last week and previously this season at the Trainers’ Show and Woodbury. They were riding for proud owner Lisa Baum, one of the industry’s most beloved and passionate owners and ambassadors. Making his owner proud, Double Shot Of Cash made a good deposit to secure reserve with Laurie Toone riding like not only a professional, but also a friend for Liz Gassaway. 

The 13-entry Amateur Youth 6-17 Country Pleasure World Grand Championship always gets the crowd geared up and this one was no different than the predecessors in this division. Household names all in perfect Celebration bling, the judges had to look for every detail. When the tabulations were made, Diamond At The Ritz and Abi Smith emerged from the lineup wearing the tricolor for their hometown base who could not been more proud of her world class skill that didn’t lack charisma for co-owner Kimberly Walden. Another hometown girl with an equal amount of talent, Score Diamond In The Ruff and Cheyenne Gardner pushed the winners hard for the strong reserve finish after having an excellent week earlier this year in the Calsonic Arena portion of the competition. 

The Amateur Youth 6-17 World Grand Championship followed with the crowd carrying on the momentum from the previous class, serving most definitely as the most lively class thus far in the Thursday evening lineup. As hard as each rider worked, one person yelled in their favor, but showing up in Maverick Arena with expectations that included nothing but the very best, Emma Wright and Extra Special José made her fan base proud. Annie’s Lined With Cash gave Khloe McSwain a ride she’ll long remember as a result of her loyal supporters cheering her on as she wore the reserve streamers out of the ring that was filled with an all-star lineup. 

The Amateur Trail Pleasure World Grand Championship followed with six entries making their mark for the great Celebration crowd and moving their way out of the yellow zone, Machete and Susan Coleman wore the tricolor and the smile out of the ring. Another tried and true favorite, Etta James By TJB, with Darren Gray pinch hitting in fine form, captured reserve for beloved owner Kathy Zeis.  

Several dignitaries were in the Celebration presence Thursday night and one of them spun the wheel to determine the call judge for the seventh class of the night, the Amateur Ponies World Grand Championship. Nine entries answered the gate call in a division that always seems to be pushing it on the line with numbers; however never ever losing quality. Big Blue Nation and Dee Yoder heard from a big Celebration crowd as they’ve made record books this year for their unforgettable presence several times over again. Mr. Trump and Taylor Walters delivered in every way other than small as they walked out with reserve among the industry’s elite. 

The Youth Ponies 6-17 World Grand Championship contenders followed and it was the time to impress the judges and let them walk on as the crowed gave its approval in a way only Shelbyville knows how to do. The Country Lineman and Claudia Gribble starred in the top-notch field of 10 with Robert Deutsch having paved their path into this spot leading up to the Celebration, and he cheered them like no one else. Anthony Davis and Jessica Davis made a run for the money and graciously walked away with reserve honors as the crowd let them know of their job well done. 

The Elite Amateur World Grand Championship also featured 10 of the industry’s finest entertaining the crowd with one of Tennessee’s finest giving out the grand prize — president of Middle Tennessee State University Dr. Sydney McPhee — proudly giving out the prize for number one. Mirroring the school he leads, McPhee crowned Mr. Heisman with the well-deserved tricolor, with Robin McDonald in the saddle to finally move out of the reserve ranks in this class. Second in the prestigious class, A King Thing and Bob Adcock walked away proudly wearing the reserve streamers. 

The Youth 6-17 Show Pleasure World Grand Championship spotlight shined brightest on a tried and true champ like no other. Godfather By Ultra Copy knows what it feels like to earn a Celebration blue and Thursday night he earned his seventh Celebration world grand championship title, his second with his newest rider, Alex Luttrell, who followed in her mother’s winning ways, and no doubt her mom was cheering the loudest as she teared up in support of her two most beloved companions. No one made it easy on the winners, including the exceptionally mature-riding Maci Ware and Blues For Santana who pushed hard and edged out several well-established names for reserve. 

The Amateur 15.2 and Under World Grand Championship followed, and with all four entries having prior Celebration winning records, it was a difficult task to tie the class. But it was too hard to resist the horsemanship demonstrated by Celebration elite Janice Fostek, who delivered in her really regal form as always — serving as a role model for many young ladies watching — aboard her trusty partner, Marty McFly.

No strangers to the winner’s circle, they’d already had a stellar season with wins at  Columbia and Woodbury, and their qualifying class earlier this week had them in a well-established position for the spotlight ride. Robert Deutsch, being the gentleman that he is, graciously tipped his hat to accept the reserve as he walked away with a more than respectable finish aboard Mr. Country Gentleman. 

The Park Performance World Grand Championship carried the night forward with easy-going momentum and eight entries performed in the good class. Reserve a year ago, the winners — I’m A Proud American and Michael Wright —  proved their focus was on point as they followed up their qualifier win to capture the tricolor. Never joking around, So Real represented Murfreesboro in blue raider fashion at the expert hands of Patrick Thomas as the reserve champions. 

The second to last class of the terrific Thursday was the Lite-Shod World Grand Championship. Here, Miss Dixie Flyer and Jeff Laughlin topped the sturdy field of qualified contenders to make owner Donna Byard proud. Master horseman Howard Hamilton settled in and received the crowd’s approval as he did what he could to earn the reserve in a style only he could deliver big time — Big Time Bandit, that is — for big-time walking horse lover and owner Lisa Baum. 

The finale of the night featured enough anticipation to keep a very steady crowd in the stands watching the talented field representing the beginning of championship weekend in the Three-Year-Old World Grand Championship. A showdown that only brothers can do — capturing a standing ovation type of applause in doing so — Jose’ Revival and Casey Wright won the good class for Bill and Debbie Woods, following up their world grand championship among the two-year-olds last year. Making their mark in the history books as well, Starpower CC, and busy rider on this night Micheal Wright, secured a solid reserve world grand championship to the roaring crowd’s approval, representing Sherrin Pittman.