Charlie Jester is Grand Marshal of 2007 Grand Festival Parade

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Charlie Jester has been involved training and pulling horses for more than 40 years. That love of draft horses has led him to be involved in many parades around the area with his horses – and this Saturday morning he will again be with them, this time as the Grand Marshal of the 2007 Grand Festival Parade at the Swiss Wine Festival.

Charlie Jester was born and raised in Switzerland County in the Moorefield area where he still lives. The son of John Wilbur and Anna Catherine Jester; Charlie had three brothers and one sister. He and younger brother, Harold, of Madison, are the only family members left.

“My dad farmed 142 acres and all we farmed with was horses,” Charlie Jester said. “Dad did get a tractor when I was 15, but we still used the horses on the farm even after he bought the tractor. I’ve farmed with them all my life.”

Charlie Jester went to school in a one-room schoolhouse on Vineyard Road as a boy; and then moved on to another one-room school at Five Points before finishing up at Long Run. He said as a boy the neighboring farmers would hold friendly competitions with their horses, and that stirred a love of horse pulling in him that he still holds today.

“They used to have pulling contests years ago,” he said. “Neighbors would get together around the county, and they’d have a pull at this farm one week and at another farm the following week.”

Charlie Jester first got into pulling competitions with ponies; and from there he moved up to larger draft horses; eventually participating in pulls here as well as Jefferson and Ohio counties in Indiana and Owen and Carroll counties in Kentucky.

He says that he used to keep around four horses that he used for pulling; and he has three right now. Although he takes them to pulls and also uses them in parades, he still takes the horses into the field for some work, too.

“I mowed four acres of hay with them on Saturday,” Charlie Jester said. “It’s parttime now, but I still farm with them.”

Along with farming, he’s driven a school bus in Switzerland County for the past 17 years, so many county children also know him well.

Parades have been a big part of Charlie Jester’s life with his pulling horses. He can’t begin to count the number of parades that he’s been in with his team, but he quickly assures everyone that if he’s going to be in a parade – his horses will be there, too.

“Oh yes, they’ll be with me on Saturday,” Charlie Jester says about the festival parade. “They’ve been in it before. Last year we hauled the 4-H kids. This year I guess it will be the grand marshal.”

Although the horses will be in the parade, that doesn’t mean that there’s less work to do for the grand marshal.

Charlie Jester estimates that it will take about six hours to get the horses and the wagon ready for Saturday, noting that it’s not always easy when you’re dealing with horses that weigh more than a ton each.

“I don’t know how many horses I’ve had,” he says. “A bunch of them. I had one pair that I sold that went to Utah. I sold them for $6,000 – that’s the highest price for a pair I’ve sold. This team that I’ll have Saturday, one fella asked me to price them and I said $7,000 because I didn’t want to sell them. He said he’d give me $6,000 but he wanted them right then, so I said no. I don’t know if that was the right thing or not, but I think a lot of those horses.”

Family is also important to Charlie Jester, who celebrated 54 years of marriage with wife Virginia in March. The couple has four sons and a daughter: Charles Wayne lives in Madison; Denny Gayle and John Thomas both live in Switzerland County; Tammy Jo lives in New Albany; and Randy lives in Greensburg.

All of the family is expected to be here on Saturday to help Charlie celebrate his special day.