Editor's Note: The following press release was submitted to the Times-Gazette by The Celebration.
The Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration (TWHNC) marked the start of its 75th annual Tennessee Walking Horse Celebration today. Known as The Celebration, it is the world's largest and most prestigious event celebrating one of Tennessee's most historical and iconic assets -- the Tennessee Walking Horse.
The event is an 11-day festival in Shelbyville, in which over 2,660 horses compete in 180 classes, and concludes with the crowning of the World Grand Champion Walking Horse on Aug. 31.
"The Celebration marks the culmination of a remarkably successful year for the walking horse and those who love the animal and the sport," said Mike Inman, CEO of TWHNC. "Compliance is as at an all-time high and cooperation with the USDA could not be better. It is exciting to be celebrating a milestone anniversary after such a successful year."
With ticket sales to nearly 160,000 fans from more than 40 states each year, the economic impact of The Celebration on Middle Tennessee's economy is comparable to a NASCAR race and bigger than the Music City Bowl and the Country Music Marathon.
Wallace Cartwright, the mayor of Shelbyville recognizes the huge impact that The Celebration has on the local economy: "The Celebration is the single biggest economic driver to the City of Shelbyville."
The economic impact on Shelbyville and Bedford County by the Celebration event alone has been estimated by a recent survey to be approximately 40 million dollars annually.
The Celebration's impact on the community is both economic and civic. In addition to the $38 million impact on Middle Tennessee's economy, the Celebration helps civic clubs raise nearly $400,000 for local charities annually.
The Celebration names over 40 World Champions of the breed and the festival culminates in its main attraction, the crowning of the World Grand Champion, on the Saturday before Labor Day. The total purse for the World Grand Champion class is $50,000 with $15,000 awarded to the winner. Additional activities include a barn decorating contest, trade fair, dog show, and concerts.
The events' highest priority is placed on the safety of the horses. In that vein, the Celebration is associated with the SHOW Horse Inspection Organization (HIO), which is known for the strictest inspection process and strongest penalties in the business. This year the SHOW HIO has inspected at 85% of the walking horse shows in the country and had a compliance rate of more than 98% this year.
More information can be found on the official event website at http://www.twhnc.com/celebration.htm.