June 2017
Homeplace & Community

A Venue to Celebrate

Morgan County Celebration Arena hosts numerous events bringing significant revenue to the area.

Every spring and fall, thousands of Racking Horse trainers and fans crowd into the Morgan County Celebration Arena in Decatur.

According to officials with the Decatur/Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau, the April Spring Celebration kicks off the season for Racking Horse competitions. The world championship, in September, closes the season and World Grand Champions are crowned for each class.

The Morgan County Celebration Arena in Decatur holds different types of events from the original Racking Horse competition it was built for and other equine events to concerts, motocross, dog competitions, even Vintage Market Day and many others.

 

"The arena floor is one of the bigger floors in the Southeast," said Operations Manager Deral Posey. "The arena can seat approximately 5,000 people."

The complex features 643 stalls for horses, a hospitality room sponsored by Alabama Farmers Cooperative, a sale barn, over 100 RV sites and a concession stand that serves food such as rib plates and hamburgers, thanks to Libby’s Restaurant in Priceville.

About 40 events are featured at the arena each year with April being a busy month.

The Morgan County Sheriff’s Rodeo was presented the second weekend of April followed by Vintage Market Days the next weekend and the Racking Horse World Celebration closing out the month.

For the Vintage Market Days, vendors from Alabama and other states brought original art, home décor, outdoor furniture, seasonal plants, repurposed finds, jewelry and clothing. Live music and food trucks were also featured.

In the time leading up to the various shows and competitions, Posey stays very busy. An average day for him is about making sure show managers have what they need – power, tables, chairs and more.

Other events at the arena this year will include the Alabama Little Britches Rodeo for children and teens ages 5-18 that was scheduled for mid-May, bareback riding, tie-down roping, saddle bronc riding, barrel racing and steer wrestling.

The Cotton Cluster Competition, a steppingstone to the Westminster Dog Show, will be presented at the arena Nov. 10-13. Hosts for the show are the Decatur Kennel Club and the Huntsville Kennel Club. An agility trial was held in May.

"We’re trying to reach out to different groups," Posey said, "including area high schools. There’s plenty of room for graduations.

"In March, we had a concert featuring New Country. It went well. We discovered the arena has good acoustics, and we want to have more concerts."

The arena was built in the early 1970s and originally was an outdoor venue for Racking Horse shows in particular. The Racking Horse, known for its distinctive single-foot gait, is the state horse of Alabama.

With 400-600 horses competing for honors, the Racking Horse World Championship to be held September 21-29 is easily the biggest draw every year.

 

(From left) Jason Muse, manager of the Celebration Arena; Gail Williams, State Products Mart Authority; and Deral Posey, operations manager of  the Celebration Arena; are responsible for keeping everything running smoothly.

"The arena is a really big asset to the county. It has about a $1 million-a-year economic impact on the area," Posey said.

The arena is owned by the Alabama State Products Mart Authority, but Morgan County stands behind it 100 percent.

The State Products Mart Authority purchased adjoining land that now holds an additional 27 campsites. They also renovated the stalls, about a $150,000 improvement to the facility.

In August, they will have the 8th Annual Megan McCain Memorial Barrel Race. Megan was killed by a drunk driver in 2009. Her parents do the rodeo to provide scholarships for youth pursuing an equine career. For more information about the barrel race, you can contact Donna McCain, her mom, at 256-239-3461. Megan sounded like an incredible young woman and her legacy will help other youth achieve their dreams.

We anticipate 2017 and 2018 to be great years with the addition of several big new shows that will be announced soon.

The Morgan County Celebration Arena is located at 67 Horse Center Rd, Decatur, AL 35603. You can contact them at 256-584-6725 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. You can also visit their website, www.celebrationarena.org.

 

Maureen Drost is a freelance writer who lives in Huntsville. She is a retired newspaper journalist.