Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Shelbyville horse show provides uptick to local economy


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Photo and story by Hannah Mitchell / Contributing Writer

To most, Bedford County is merely a small map-dot; for the 40-something thousand locals and those in the horse industry, it’s better known as the Walking Horse Capital of the world. But the horse show would be nothing without the undying support of the local businesses that make it possible.

Each year in late August, it’s as if time stands still in the county, because the only thing on everyone’s mind is the world-famous Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration. School is canceled for a week, various organizations fire up the grills to serve a week’s worth of tasty treats and show regulars slip on their favorite pair of boots.

It’s a huge time for Bedford locals, both emotionally and economically.

“With the number of visitors who come to see the show, our local economy experiences quite a positive financial impact,” said the Bedford-Shelbyville Chamber of Commerce CEO Allen Pitner. “Not only that, but many of our local civic clubs and nonprofit organizations have concessions (and) program sales.”

And the same money that local organizations earn at the Celebration is oftentimes given back to the community, whether it takes the form of donation or scholarship.

Justin West, the valedictorian of Community High School’s 2017 graduating class, one of three public schools within the county, was given the opportunity to further his education through scholarships funded by the Celebration.

“These scholarships, as well as the ones I received from MTSU, are helping me tremendously,” West said. “If I had not received these scholarships, I would probably not be at MTSU.”

Now, West is that much closer to pursuing his dream of becoming a cardiovascular surgeon. The horse show is wholeheartedly funding the future. 

Though the horse show brings some much-needed funding to the county’s economy, the Celebration focuses just as much on providing an enjoyable time to its guests as it does raising money.

First Community Bank, located in the heart of Bedford County, is a Premier Sponsor of the Celebration, as are several other local businesses. In addition to providing the showgrounds with an ATM, First Community also sponsors the first Saturday of the horse show, which is known as Hat Night: a night for all attendees to sport derby-inspired fashion. 

“FCB is the sponsor of the Hat Luncheon at the Riverbend Country Club, a luncheon for ladies to purchase hats to wear at the Hat Night of the Celebration to compete for prizes and a ride in the Celebration Show Ring in a convertible to show off their winning hat,” said Linda Nichols, Vice President of FCB.

FCB is an honorary member of the Celebration community, just like the thousands of guests that attempt to fill the stands each night.

For some, the horse show is an annual, 10-day event that comes and goes all too quickly. But for others, it’s a full-time, year-round job, and that’s not something Bedford locals take lightly.

“I feel like the horse show is a big tradition for Shelbyville and brings a lot of money and visitors to the town,” West said. “I believe it should remain a tradition for Shelbyville for years to come.”

If you’ve yet to hear about the Shelbyville-famous horse show, all are welcome.

“It is a sport for all ages,” encouraged Nichols.

To contact Lifestyles Editor Tayhlor Stephenson, email

For more updates, follow us at, on Facebook at MTSU Sidelines and on Twitter/Instagram at @Sidelines_Life.

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