ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — The world-renowned Budweiser Clydesdales are back in Roanoke for the first time in years as they get ready to walk along the streets of the Star City in Saturday’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
According to Downtown Roanoke, Inc., the Clydesdales were scheduled to appear for the annual Freedom First St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Shamrock Festival in 2020, but the festivities were canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Then, just days before the Star City’s 2022 St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, organizers voiced concerns the horses would not be able to participate because of the weather, saying that the Budweiser Clydesdales’ team weather policy does not allow them to come out in rain or snow.
However, excitement rang out among members of the Budweiser team and the Roanoke community as the famous horses arrived for parade prep on Thursday, March 10.
“It’s great to be back,” said Dave Thomas, supervisor of the Budweiser East Coast team. “We are so excited to get to do your parade. We have heard so many things about it.”
With each horse weighing an average of 2,000 pounds and standing nearly 6 feet tall, getting them prepared takes a lot of work.
“It takes quite a while to get the team ready for each event. It takes us about five hours to get ready for each parade, and during that five-hour time, we groom the horses; wash their white legs; and right before showtime, we braid the ribbons into their manes and tails,” explained Thomas.
Owner of P.A. Short Distributing Company in Hollins, Phillip Short, says watching the Clydesdales is one of his favorite things to do.
“To watch the guys from the hitch work with those animals is absolutely a fabulous sight to see,” said Short.
Short hosted an unveiling on Thursday, where people gathered to watch the horses get hitched to the famous red beer wagon.
“We are a relatively small wholesaler, and there are three hitches across the country, one on the east coast, one in central, and one on the west coast. Those horses are in demand all the time,” said Short.
Organizers say the eight-horse hitch will be harnessed and hitched to the beer wagon for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which will start rain or shine at 11 a.m. on Saturday, March 12 in downtown Roanoke. The parade is set to travel down Jefferson Street to Campbell Avenue, ending at Williamson Road.
Meanwhile, the Shamrock Festival has been postponed until Saturday, March 19. However, this free event will still be held in the plaza behind the Market Building from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., featuring adult beverages, vendors, and live music performances.