By M. Scott Morris
TUPELO – Downtown Tupelo might resemble a Super Bowl commercial during the Reed’s Tupelo Christmas Parade tonight.
The iconic Budweiser Clydesdales – each weighing some 2,000 pounds and standing 18 hands (6 feet) at the shoulder – will trot through town.
Fire, Charlie, Prince, Tim, Dixon, Caz, Rock, Princeton, King and Sparky came to town on Saturday with help from three semi-trailers. They were accompanied by Clyde the Dalmatian, as well as seven human handlers.
“We travel with 10, but we only hitch eight, so we have two spares,” said Rudy Helmuth, Clydesdale handler.
In order to prepare for the parade, which starts at 6:30 p.m. today, the geldings’ grooming session will begin at 7 a.m.
“They’ll be groomed, washed and fed, and all the brass on their harnesses has to get polished,” Helmuth said.
The characteristic white hairs on their lower legs are known as feathers.
“Before every show, we wash them and maintain them to keep them as white as possible,” Helmuth said.
The Clydesdales are an Anheuser-Busch tradition that goes back to April 7, 1933, when they first trotted down Pestalozzi Street in St. Louis.
“My grandfather, August Busch Jr., presented the first team of Clydesdales to his father, August Busch Sr., to commemorate the first bottle of post-Prohibition Budweiser brewed in St. Louis,” August Busch IV wrote in “The Great American Tradition.”
In 1849, Herman Melville described the Clydesdales in his novel, “Redburn: His First Voyage”: “So grave, dignified, gentlemanly, and courteous did these fine truck-horses look – so full of calm intelligence and sagacity, that often I endeavored to get into conversation with them, as they stood in contemplative attitudes while their loads were preparing.”
The Clydesdales came to Tupelo thanks to Mitchell Distributing Co., which earned Anheuser-Busch’s “Ambassador of Excellence” distinction three years in a row. The award is based on profits, business practices and community service.
Tommy Taylor, key account manager for Mitchell, saw the Clydesdales in person in Las Vegas when officials accepted the “Big Jake” award.
“The Clydesdales came out with Jay Leno on top,” Taylor said.
Don’t expect any world-famous comedians in today’s parade; world-famous horses should be enough to draw interest along Main, Robins and Jefferson streets.
After the parade, there’s no need to wait for a Budweiser commercial on television to see the horses again. They’ll be on free public view at the Lee County Agri-Center in Verona from 3 to 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.
They’ll also attend a Community Development Foundation After Hours event at Mitchell Distributing’s Tupelo warehouse on Commerce Street from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Thursday.
It’s free for CDF members and $5 for the public.
“There will be a chance to get your picture made with them,” said Anna Grace Ward, communications manager for Mitchell Companies. “We’re going to have a customer showcase. A lot of our top customers will have booths with their food, and we’ll have a band.”
For anyone wanting more time with the Clydesdales, downtown Columbus might resemble a Super Bowl commercial during a Christmas parade starting at 5 p.m. Saturday.