CHARLES MCDONALD is the show chair- man for the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration, but that’s not the only hat he has worn in the center ring. For the past five decades, Charles has given his all to help progress the horse show. 50 years ago, he started as an assistant to legendary Walking Horse photographer Les Nelson. The job consisted of carrying the camera around through the cheers, lights, and dust in the air. Then, he made his way up to the press boxes to coordinate and provide information to the press. He sat on the board helping make important decisions for the Celebration. He’s been the right hand man for CEO after CEO. And now, he is the show chairman of the historic TWHNC.
His days at the horse show started at a young age. He was born and raised here in Shelbyville, and he re- members his mother, Maude McDonald, was one of the original box seat holders. Decades later, the boy who helped carry a camera during the show is now a figure- head at the world-famous event.
“The celebration is such a community event,” Charles said. “It has not only a local impact but also a far-reaching impact for our community. I just see the value that it has brought to the community over all these years—how it has grown and what the finan- cial benefit and the entertainment aspect has been for Shelbyville and Bedford County.” And he’s right. The horse show brings millions of more dollars to the area according to public financial documents over the past ten years (causeiq.com).
When asked about making a smooth-running show he said, “There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes that most folks don’t know.” Anyone who has ever been a part of an organization or event knows that speed bumps and hiccups happen. It’s the leadership’s job to have a smooth show where the audience has no idea that something went wrong. That doesn’t happen without a staff that works well together and does whatever needs to be done. Charles knows the staff is highly capable of handling any hiccups.
“We have a great staff. A lot of the staff has been with us for a long, long time. They do their job well and it comes off as a well-oiled machine with very few hiccups.”
When talking about the horse show, he was asked questions about his life, his accomplishments, and how his impact has changed the show for the better. When he answered, he spent most of his time talking about the good job that everyone else is doing. Charles is a humble man, who knows that a show this big only happens with a team.
With Charles’ leadership in the horse show, from carrying a camera to being the show chair- man, the horse show has made a lasting impact on people around the world—and a financial impact right here in Bedford County. With hu- mility, integrity, and a love for his hometown, Bedford County can celebrate knowing Charles is our neighbor. -GN