The world famous Budweiser Clydesdales are coming to the 2016 Swiss Wine Festival.
An excited Festival President Kirk Works was finally about to make public on Wednesday what the committee has known for some time – a team of the famous Clydesdales will be here in the Paul Ogle Riverfront Park for all four days of this year’s festival, which will run from Thursday, August 25th through Sunday, August 28th.
“We’ve been working on this for more than four years,” Works said. “We’ve asked for them since 2013, we’ve requested them, and this year, it happened.”
Works said that the request to Budweiser has to be made through the local distributor, in this case North Vernon Beverage Company, and then the local distributor is the one who actually puts in the official request to the home office in St. Louis, Missouri.
“They (the distributor) has to be on board with the whole thing,” Works said. “You can just go straight to Budweiser, you have to go through the distributor. It’s a joint venture.”
North Vernon Beverage supplies beer to the Beer Garden at the Swiss Wine Festival.
“They’ve been really good to work with,” Works said. “They wanted them as much as we wanted them. They are covering half of the cost for them to come.”
The festival committee was officially notified that they had been approved last Tuesday, April 5th, but were not allowed to make the announcement until Budweiser made its official announcement, which came on Wednesday morning, April 13th.
Works said that the Clydesdales will actually be in Vevay on Monday, August 22nd, and will be housed at the Paul Ogle Riverfront Park under careful conditions and heavy security. Availability of the horses and handlers during the week is still being worked out. He said that Monday, August 22nd and Tuesday, August 23rd, will be a time for set up, preparation, cleaning, and other tasks, and those two days may be more closed to the public so that everything is just right.
Works asks that everyone understand the need for more privacy for the team early in the week, but added that when public viewings are available early in the week, the committee will share that information with the public.
“They will be in a tent, and they will have their own stalls, on the festival grounds. Officially, they will be available to the public on Thursday, the 25th,” Works said.
Works said that the horses will be on display for all hours of the festival, beginning on Thursday, August 25th at 5 p.m. There will be opportunities for visitors to have their photo taken with the horses throughout the festival. The Clydesdales will be located on the east end of the Festival grounds, on the east side of the ballfield. The festival will provide security 24-hours a day throughout the run of the festival.
And, of course, the Clydesdales will be the epicenter of the Grand Festival Parade on Saturday morning, August 27th.
The announcement that the Budweiser Clydesdales will be at the Swiss Wine Festival is sure to bring thousands of visitors to this year’s festival, which is already packed with four days of entertainment and events, including a concert by the band 38-Special; and Works believes that this is the first appearance of the iconic team in this area in about five years.
“They were in Aurora for the Farmers Fair when they had their 100th Farmers Fair (in 2008),” Works said. “And I know they were in Madison at the Regatta back in the 1980s. We’re lucky. We’re a small, small town. It’s rare that they go to a place as small as we are. It’s very rare. It’s really an honor.”
So is the longtime Festival President excited?
“I don’t know what to expect,” Works smiled. “I don’t know if we’re going to get emails, phone calls, I don’t know. It’s very exciting, obviously.”
And is he surprised that the secret has been kept for a week?
“I don’t think the world got out,” he continued. “I thought maybe it was leaked out, but I don’t think it did. I sat at Lions Club and told them to watch the newspaper because we had an announcement coming, and nobody could guess what it was. I was excited about that, too.”
The focus of everything from national parades to famous television commercials during the Super Bowl, the thought of the Budweiser Clydesdales coming down Main Street of Vevay on Saturday morning, August 27th, is amazing. The appearance is sure to draw tens of thousands of new visitors to Switzerland County and to the Festival. It is truly a once in a lifetime experience.
“We’re preparing for a larger crowd,” Works said. “It has the potential to bring in a lot more people. It’s going to be all four days. They want it that way, and I’m glad.”
The eight-horse hitch will be harnessed and hitched to the famous red beer wagon. The Clydesdales’ appearance at the Swiss Wine Festival is one of hundreds made annually by the traveling hitches. Canadians of Scottish descent brought the first Clydesdales to America in the mid-1800’s.
Today, the giant draft horses are used primarily for breeding and show.
Horses chosen for the Budweiser Clydesdale hitch must be at least three years of age, stand approximately 18 hands – or six feet – at the shoulder, weigh an average of 2,000 pounds, must be bay in color, have four white legs, and a blaze of white on the face and black mane and tail. A gentle temperament is very important as hitch horses meet millions of people each year.
A single Clydesdale hitch horse will consume as much as 20-25 quarts of feed, 40-50 pounds of hay and 30 gallons of water per day.
Each hitch travels with a Dalmatian. In the early days of brewing, Dalmatians were bred and trained to protect the horses and guard the wagon when the driver went inside to make deliveries. The hitch was originally used by Anheuser-Busch to deliver the first cases of beer to the White House after Prohibition was repealed.
“I’m totally excited,” Works said. “I think this is probably the biggest thing that’s ever happened to the festival, and probably Vevay.”