(T-G Photo by Mary Reeves)
"It's a family tradition," said Jill Smith of Jackson. "It has been for 25 years."
Of course for her and her husband Verner and their children, it's also a family reunion as well as a family tradition.
"My parents retired here, George and Darlene Zamora," he added.
Rich Burnett of Kensington, Ohio, is also a return visitor.
"We come just about every year," said the trainer at Country Ridge Stables. "The clients want to show here and we love bringing them here."
Burnett shows flat shod horses exclusively, and runs a tight barn. Don't expect any of the horses in his care to nibble at fingers in hopes of treats.
"No treats allowed in my barn," he said. "If you want to put them in the feed box, that's one thing, but not by hand. My horses know better than to expect it."
Burnett's granddaughter, who rides versatility, wanted to come along to the Fun Show, too, but Ohio schools were still in session and she couldn't get away.
"Oh, she'll be here for the Celebration and the big versatility show," he said. "We're getting into versatility for the kids."
The best part about the Fun Show this year for Burnett was the weather. Even though Tennessee has had more than its share of deep snows this year, Ohio was hit even harder and he was glad to escape the cold for a while.
"Three weeks ago was the first time we've gotten to ride outside all year," he said.
Sam Bates and The Cruiser are old and familiar faces at the Fun Show. How old? Between horse and rider, they have 92 years of experience.
"He's 23 years old," said the 69-year-old Bates as he petted the chestnut's mane -- just under the purple, seventh place ribbon they'd won in Country Pleasure.
The Cruiser is actually owned by Dan Young and they all hail from Jamestown. When asked why he didn't ride The Cruiser himself, Young laughed and pointed at Bates.
"Because I'm even older than he is," he joked. "No, though, seriously, I prefer trail riding and he enjoys showing more than I do."
Young has owned The Cruiser all of his life, and remembers when he was born 23 years ago to a Merry Go Boy mare he also raised -- who was 21 herself at the time. In more than two decades, he's had The Cruiser shown in just about every capacity there is, even as a padded performance horse at one time. Bates started showing him for Young about five years ago and you might say they've had some success.
"I've three walls at home covered in the ribbons we've won," said Bates.
Young has no plans to retire the gelding any time soon, not even for the quiet life of trail riding. It seems The Cruiser isn't ready to kick back and just cruise.
"He's still got plenty of spunk!" said Young.
"He'll probably retire me," said Bates.