Many attendees of the Celebration have been going for decades. But each person seems to have a unique experience.
Thomas’ stolen dogs
Patrick Thomas came back to his trailer one late Saturday evening only to find his trailer ransacked and two of his Boston Terriers missing.
Thomas is a trainer from Southern Serenity Ranch. He’s been going to the Celebration for 18 years now. So, it’s safe to say he’s made quite a few connections in that time.
Those connections are what helped him find his dogs, Jake and Millie. He said once they concluded the dogs had been stolen, along with some jewelry in a nearby trailer, Thomas went to Facebook to post about his missing dogs.
They went door-to-door until 3 a.m. Sunday morning, asking people if they’d seen the dogs. They even got the help of Bedford County Detective Nathan Everhart through acquaintance Trey Green.
It wasn’t until a longtime Facebook friend informed Thomas that he saw Jake and Mille were for sale on Craigslist.
With the help of Det. Everhart, they were able to track down the alleged thief, arrest him, and return the dogs safely to Thomas who said he felt “proud and relieved.”
“That’s the great thing about these horse people—they help you out.”
Thefts do happen at the Celebration because so many people pass through, said Det. Everhart. It’s usually horse items—things like saddles and harnesses. But this is the first time, to Everhart’s knowledge, that dogs were stolen.
The man who allegedly stole them and put the dogs online was looking for “quick money,” with evidence showing he looked the value of dogs up online, according to Everhart. Thomas said he was selling them for a thousand dollars and trying to pass them off as puppies. Jake is 6 and Millie is 8 years old.
There were also concerns that this was a targeted theft, but Det. Everhart believes this was “random.”
Charles Davis, despite the occasional thefts, keeps coming back to serve with security at the Celebration.
He’s been serving therefor about 20 years and you can find him sitting at one of the front gates, saying hello and goodbye to the hundreds of people who go in and out of the gate.
Age doesn’t limit
Linda Sisk, originally from South Carolina, first came to the Celebration in 1998 when Darrin, who was to be her husband four year later, “dragged her along” to the shows.
Her husband Darrin, 55, got into the industry through Danny Kistler who trained at a stable near Darrin’s home in Northwest Georgia. Growing up on a dairy farm, he was fascinated with the walking horse and went to his first Celebration show in 1978. He’s been going ever since.
Linda’s, who’s now 76, has been riding walking horses for seven years and showed at the Celebration for the first time in 2014. This year she’s been showing Duke Energy and Knight at Camelot.
A true Southern Bell, Linda said growing up she was never supposed to get into riding horses. She was supposed to take piano and dance lessons and not sweat while working long hours in a horse barn.
But now a semi-retired grandmother, Linda doesn’t let her age, or her back pain stop her.
“A good ride is worth a lot. You don’t have to get a ribbon,” said Linda.
The couple met at church and connected with each other through their careers in social work as well as the fact that they each have a daughter.
Today, the Sisks live in South Carolina, and they travel the eight hours to Shelbyville every month for the walking horse industry.
“I mean it’s the friendships that we’ve made throughout the years that keeps us coming back,” said Darrin.
Not to mention, as the world remains as crazy as ever, coming to the Celebration is an escape from reality, the Sisks said.
And with the friends you make along the way, the common cause is one everybody loves: the Tennessee Walking Horse.
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