World famous Budweiser Clydesdales a big hit at Mardi Gras parades
The world-famous Budweiser Clydesdales are truly an American icon and synonymous with some of the biggest events in the country. The team is here again this year, participating in several Mardi Gras parades. Base camp or the team has been the Baldwin County Fairgrounds.
Four parades in all will be led by the Clydesdales this year, concluding with the Order of Athena on Fat Tuesday. The eight-horse team, pulling the circa-1903 Budweiser beer wagon is always a hit.
“The size of them is so big,” said young Emmy Ransom.
“And they’re so beautiful, too,” added her friend, Londyn Vrill
Vrill and Ransom were thrilled for the chance to get an up-close look at the Clydesdales. Folks stopped by the Arena at the Fairgrounds all day to check them out. The horses are every bit what you’d expect and more. Standing more than six feet tall at the shoulders, the gentle giants can weigh 2,000 pounds or more.
“Naturally, they’re laid back and then, they’re handled from day-one,” explained three-year crew member, Jason Thoms. “As soon as they’re born, there’s some sort of hands-on contact with them and then, we do a lot more training to go out in the public and handle all the different noises.”
The team is made up of 10 horses, two dogs and seven crew members. Thoms led Sparky around the arena for a bit of exercise on Monday. He weighs in at just shy of 2,000 pounds and is a veteran of the team. Nearly 16 years old, he’ll retire soon and is better travelled than most of us will ever be.
Of all the parades the Budweiser Clydesdales participate in, Mardi Gras is one of the most challenging for the horses and the crew.
“There’s a lot of stuff flopping around, loud noises and they don’t know where it comes from and so, it’s hard for us as drivers to give them the cue to go because it’s so loud,” Thoms said.
Monday was not one of those days, though. It was a restful one and gave some lucky visitors a chance for a few pictures and some private time they wouldn’t have otherwise gotten.
“They’ve ridden with us and led us quite a few times, but we don’t ever get to see them in action, so we like to come see them in person,” said Mary Clair Sharp with Fairhope’s Maids of Jubilee.
The distractions of Mardi Gras will serve to get the team ready for its next stop…Bike Week in Daytona.
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