For the first time in at least a decade, a night’s session at the Celebration was cut short because of the weather. There weren’t many there for the opening night of the 54th Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration - only the truly faithful followers of the breed. But Andrew, the hurricane turned tropical depression, was there, wreaking his havoc.

He came into Middle Tennessee in the late afternoon and stayed. His vengeance could have been much worse, but he did unleash a steady downpour of rain which kept things interesting in the ring, made a lot of work for the farrier, and caused show officials to postpone the last three classes of the evening until 6 p.m. Friday. Judging duties fell this year to Mike Carpenter of Franklin, Tennessee; Howard Hamilton of Cedar Grove, Tennessee; Tommy Howell of Athens, Tennessee; Ty Irby of Semmes, Alabama; Benny Johnson of Bluemont, Virginia; and Diane Gueck, (trail and equitation), of Sherwood, Oregon.

Action began as usual with the Owner-Amateur Junior Riders on Mares Riders 11 Years and Under. But one thing wasn’t as usual. The victor for the past two years, Kelly Gordon, who won with Ebony Go Boy’s Dream, graduated into the older age division leaving the field wide open for a new champion.

The rain did not deter these young riders, as 22 entered the ring to work for Call Judge Johnson, Second Judge Hamilton and Third Judge Howell.

Winning the first blue ribbon of the show as Gen’s Country Girl and Chris Warley, owner of Midland, Texas. Chris had his cheering section revved up, despite the rain.

Reserve went to Jenny’s Jezebel and Whitney Gilliam for the Gilliam family, while third belonged to Haze’s Pride and Amanda Honeycutt for Hathcock and Honeycutt.

Walking Horse exhibitors seem to have adopted the mailman’s motto, for rain did not keep those in the next class, the Three-Year-Old Geldings, from their appointed rounds, either. Thirty-one entered the ring to compete for the votes of Call Judge Howell, Second Judge Irby and Third Judge Hamilton. Forty had been entered in the program.

Action was delayed for these competitors, as Louie Staton was called to replace the first thrown shoe of the show, lost upon entering the ring.

Thirteen were called to the rail for additional work, during which time the farrier was called to the ring for the second time. Eb’s Final Notice and Greg Bryant decided instead of replacing the shoe, they would take the gate, cutting the field to an even dozen.

The Real Deal and David Landrum were the blue ribbon winners in this long class. Jan Small owned the gelding. Reserve went to Gen’s Master Blaster with Scott Beaty up for Rhea Ellen Beaty, while third and the yellow ribbon belonged to Spirit’s Pathfinder and Winky Groover for the Bob Parks Family.

Twenty-three Plantation Pleasure Stallions or Geldings, Riders 18 & Over took the in gate next to work for Call Judge Hamilton, Second Judge Howell and Third Judge Johnson. Thirty-one had been entered in the program.

One of the winningest stables at the Celebration in recent years has been the Russ Thompson Stable from Devore Heights, California. Last year, alone, the group claimed [15] top prizes.

When the cards were marked, Russ Thompson Stables had picked up its first blue of the show. Danny Wooten rode Coins Bound For Glory to the victory for Dr. and Mrs. Bill Talbot of Canyon Country, California.

Reserve went to Black Generator and Wallace Brandon for Hickory Hill Farm, while the Valley Preacher and Dwight Mongold were third for Jim Bevins.

Nine of the 21 Owner-Amateur Riders on Geldings Over 15.2 entered in the program took to the ring next to work for Judges Hamilton, Irby and Carpenter.

There was a chill in the air, and it came not only from the rain, but from Chill Factor, who unanimously won the class with Marcus Whitman Jr. up for Dr. and Mrs. Marcus Whitman Jr.

Reserve went to Mr. Bocephus and Mike Mosteller for Michael and Carla Mosteller, while Generations and Ed Breedlove claimed the yellow for Melissa Breedlove.

Of note about this class was the fact that it saw the first ribbon of the show that went to a Classic Horse, one 15 years or older. Claiming it were Mark Of Pride and Stacy McConnell.

Judges Hamilton, Howell and Carpenter officiated the Three-Year-Old Mare Class, Division A, which hosted 25 soppy entries. Even halfway through the night’s schedule the rain had not abated. This field was 11 shy of the 36 in the program.

Claiming the blue ribbon over this field was Papa’s Dixie Belle and Billy Gray for Mr. and Mrs. Jerry Bagwell. Reserve and the red ribbon went to Gen’s Queen Of Hearts and David Landrum, riding for Hillview Farms. Third place belonged to Double Whammy and Bobby Hugh, up for Mr. and Mrs. C.a. West.

Division B of the Three-Year-Old Mares class saw 22 take to the ring to exhibit for Judges Hamilton, Howell and Johnson.

Coming back into the ring from the previous class, Bobby Hugh campaigned Beam’s Temptation to the victory for Lisa Baum. Reserve went to Coin’s Walking the Floor and Jimmy McConnell for McWhorter, McWhorter and McConnell. Cold Heart and Tom Cottle took third for A.C. Potter.

Twenty-three of the 33 entered in the program answered the gate call and rode into the increasing wind in the Owner-Amateur Riders on Four-Year-Old Stallions, Specialty Class, Division A. the wind was blowing the rain so hard that even organist Larry Bright had to call it quits during this class. Ever watched a horse show without music? It’s not the same.

Judging duties fell to Judges Johnson, Hamilton and Howell. This class required a one-way workout before the decision rested with I Got Style and Luanne Sigman for Bob and Luanne Sigman. Reserve belonged to Classic Generator and Gloria Smith, while Clutch’s Champ and Tom Bohl were third for Kibler Farms.

It was during this class, with box seat chairs blowing across the box seat area and several flags that top the arena breaking that officials called a halt to the proceedings. the decision was made not only to assure the safety of those exhibiting and watching, but also to allow the horses to exhibit in more favorable conditions.

Attendance was unavailable at press time. Those who were there were initiated into the hard-core club, once reserve for those who remained through extremely long shows. Needless o say, anyone who sat through the remnants of Andrew deserve accommodation, not to mention the many who entered the ring to compete. Large classes in unfavorable conditions are something not many breeds can boast.