Original TWHNC exhibitor wants show preserved

Friday, September 8, 2006
Mildred Bobo holds a photo of her riding a walking horse from the era in which she competed in the very first Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration. Bobo says she wants to make sure the event continues. (T-G Photo by John I. Carney)

On Sept. 1, the Celebration honored 12 surviving exhibitors from the original show in 1939. The Celebration staff could track down only 14 such exhibitors, two of whom were unable to attend.

The next night, a conflict over inspection procedures left the show without a World Grand Champion for the first time in its 68-year history. Mildred Bobo, one of those 1939 exhibitors who was honored Friday night, is alarmed by what she sees as a crisis threatening the event.

"Well," she said, "I'm determined to save the horse show." She's called various officials including Celebration board chair John T. Bobo expressing her concerns. John T. Bobo is a distant cousin of Mrs. Bobo's husband's family.

Mrs. Bobo, who won a class at the first show riding a 2-year-old horse named Lady B, recalls the community involvement in the early years of the show, including collecting the money which was used to purchase the Celebration grounds.

She does not put stock in complaints about the treatment of horses.

"People don't sore horses anymore," she said. "They're treated better than a lot of other things." She said trainers are too smart to put highly valuable animals at risk.

But she said the uncertainty over U.S. Department of Agriculture inspections hung over this year's show. She said the felt the crowd was light on the night of the tribute to the first Celebration exhibitors.

"It was as if they knew all of this was going to happen," she said.

Amie Boyd Marks, another 1939 exhibitor who was honored, said she's "still in a state of shock" over last weekend's events.

"I'm concerned about the financial impact it would have on the city if we didn't have the Celebration," said Marks. "I think everybody in the whole town is affected."

Marks noted that the Celebration is the major fund-raiser for various civic and volunteer organizations in Shelbyville.

Marks, who said she hasn't been actively involved in showing horses in 20 years, said she has no sense of what exactly needs to be done.

"I wish I did," she sighed. But whatever the solution is, she said the Celebration needs to be preserved.

"I certainly don't want to see anything happen to it," said Marks.