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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

It's show time: Evening classes begin tonight

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Tim Parsons mows the grass in center ring Wednesday at The Celebration. Outdoor classes begin tonight.
(T-G Photo by David Melson) [Order this photo]
Anticipation, preparation -- and simply a lot of hard work.

Horses were already in the ring at Calsonic Arena as the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration began Wednesday morning, but things were much quieter next door at the outdoor arena. A few people were out and about, but one could walk long distances without seeing another person.

Those few included Allen Perry of Shelbyville, who was working on an electric outlet for the Shelbyville Civitan Club's food booth and hoping for a good show.

As the outdoor screen at right begins rising, Larry Brummett of Media Vision of Nashville makes sure it's functioning as expected.
(T-G Photo by David Melson)
"We're trying to get everything going. The show's right on us again," Perry said. "This is where we make our money for the year. We usually do pretty good.

"We give all our money to the Child Development Center, the Adult Activity Center and disabled children and adults. All the money stays in Bedford County."

The booth's annual reboot takes much more than a few minutes.

"I started a couple of weeks ago. I do all the stocking and we get everybody called. Ice cream's a very big seller."

There's no shortage of help, Perry said.

"We have probably 10 to 15 working at a time. Most are volunteers -- my wife Mary Catherine gets them. We have to pay the dippers."

Perry didn't have to worry about any sparks from the outlet causing a fire. Twelve Shelbyville firefighters and three fire engines were arriving nearby.

"We're doing a walkthrough checking fire hydrants and exits," Capt. Charles Armstrong said. "This is the C shift. All shifts do a walkthrough each year."

Six firefighters are stationed at the Celebration on the final night with four on other nights, firefighter Brian Redd said.

Joining Armstrong and Redd were firefighters Timmy Dixon, Kenneth Holley, Brian Redd, Eric Smith, Chris Cartwright, John Young, Justin Bird, Clint Smotherman, Pete Soupham and shift commander Matt Doak.

They went up, down and sideways throughout the press box, offices, stands and barn area.

Shelbyville firefighters begin a walkthrough of the Celebration grounds Wednesday morning.
(T-G Photo by David Melson)
As the firefighters walked into the office, Ruth Statum helped a walk-in picking up pre-ordered tickets.

"I help people, answer the phone -- I'm just the general flunky," Statum said.

While Statum helped from the inside, the Nelms family of College Grove -- Celebration stalwarts from the show's beginning in 1939 -- were picking up tickets from Carolyn Reed and Mary McClain at the ticket window. Joining them was Robert Nelms, who had just ridden Hot Silks to a win in this year's opening class, Model Pleasure Mares.

"Our family was here for the very first Celebration in 1939," Becky Nelms said. "James 'Jim' Nelms was a past president (of the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders and Exhibitors Association). He showed in the first show."

Martha Nelms related some of her memories of past shows.

"I came for the first time in 1946," she said. "It was still behind the high school."

The list of past Champions in the plaza behind the office area brought a stormy night in the late 1960s to mind.

"I think it was 1969, on the final night," Nelms said. "Oh, the chairs were blowing, the lights went out. Just plenty of wind blowing chairs around like matchsticks. People were trying to get to their cars. But they finished the show."

Over in the office, workers were hoping for strong ticket sales.

Carolyn Reed sells Celebration tickets to Becky Nelms, left, and Robert Nelms.
(T-G Photo by David Melson)
"We're very hopeful for a good show and we're doing everything we can to prepare for that," Reed said.

Although the Jumbotron is gone from the show grounds, another large screen displaying class results remains.

Larry Brummett from Media Vision of Nashville was making final adjustments as the screen was being raised.

"It's an LED wall capable of showing results and graphics," Brummett said. "Three of us are on site to operate it. We've been doing it for the past 10 years."

Though classes (outside) hadn't started yet, there was plenty of action -- even movement -- in center ring.

Tim Parsons, who spends his summers taking care of the greens at River Bend Country Club, was mowing the grass inside the track, which was slightly muddy with a few areas of standing water after morning rain.

"We walk it with the push mower instead of using a riding mower," Parsons said. "They wanted it shorter and tighter than before. We want to make it as pretty as we can."

Back in the barn area, local landscaper J.R. Bowen and Ronnie Brown were sprucing up a barn with hanging flowers and potted plants for a Virginia stable whose owner was expected to arrive today.

"We're not sure if she's bringing any horses this year but she's coming," Bowen said.

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