Sunday, April 28, 2019

This Bud's for you

Every once in a while I'll see a complaint (usually on Facebook, where complaints thrive like bacteria in a Petri dish) coming from somebody who thinks they have a deeper insight or a more profound perspective than the rest of us that there is, in fact, nothing to do in Lexington.

Nothing ever happens in this one-horse town.

To which I say, "Pffft."

For a couple of hours each on Friday and Saturday, Lexington was an eight-horse (or more precisely, a 10-horse) town.

The famous Budweiser Clydesdales were here for the BBQ Capital Cook-Off weekend. They clopped their way down Main Street from where they were staying at the Davidson County Fairgrounds for the past few days, marching majestically to the Breeden Amphitheater site, where they patiently stood up close and personal for several hours of posing, posturing and picture-taking.

The magnificent Budweiser Clydesdales take their cue in Lexington.
 (Two signature Dalmatians, a mother and her pup, where also on board the beer wagon, along with the two snappily dressed teamsters. Cute, but the horses were the real stars here.)

What was amazing to me was that with little fanfare and pre-publicity, the Clydesdales drew a fairly large number of spectators, especially on Saturday, when the weather suddenly turned ... perfect.

The Clydesdales were also in Lexington a decade or so ago as part of the Barbecue Festival, which is held in October.

This time, I learned, the Clydesdales came to Lexington at the suggestion of R.H. Barringer, a local Anheuser-Busch beer distributorship. The distributor thought it would be cool to have the horses here for the Cook-Off, and A-B said, yes, we just happen to have an open date on the calendar at that time.

Presto. World-famous Clydesdales. In Lexington.

The Budweiser Studebaker beer wagon is a classic in its own right.
 While the horses were parked in neutral at the amphitheater site on Third Avenue Saturday, we got to ask one of the handlers, Nick ("You can't touch the horse, ma'am. Please take one step back."), a few questions.

We learned there are three teams of touring horses worldwide, each team complete with 10 horses, although only eight pull the wagon at a given time. Two horses are held in reserve on a rotating basis to provide vacation breaks for the others. Anheuser-Busch owns about 250 Clydesdales, said Nick, with each foal getting several years of training. The chosen usually start work when they are four or five years old, and haul the beer wagon around until they're 15 or so. Horses in retirement may end up in Super Bowl beer commercials or in other public appearance opportunities. The average Clydesdale lifespan is 20-25 years.

The wagon, said Nick (think of him as Nickipedia), is original and was made by Studebaker at the turn of the last century. The one that was in Lexington this week has a build-date of 1905.

Nick also said the Clydesdale support group actually enjoys visiting the smaller towns as opposed to the big cities. "People seem to appreciate seeing the horses more in a small town. They're friendlier. In a big city, it's almost as if we're in their way when we're going down the road. Smaller towns are different."

Think of it this way: There are three teams of Anheuser-Busch Clydesdales touring the world 10 months out of the year. Not one of them was in Charlotte this weekend. Or Greensboro. Or Raleigh. Or Winston-Salem.

But there was one in Lexington.

What did you do this weekend?

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