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Gentle giants: Budweiser Clydesdales to make rare appearance for St. Patrick’s Day

The iconic Budweiser Clydesdales will be trotting through Baton Rouge this week to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. The hitch team and red wagon will be the main feature of the 2016 “Wearin’ of the Green” parade.

According to Dan Palmer, marketing manager of Mockler Beverage Company, he lobbied to have the gigantic geldings to travel from St. Louis to Baton Rouge to lead this year’s parade.

“The world famous Clydesdales are an iconic symbol for Budweiser. From posters to Super Bowl commercials, everyone is familiar with the Budweiser Clydesdales. Because of that popularity, I think they appeal to every community,” Palmer said. “I chose St. Patrick’s Day because of the number of people who attend the parade and the exposure that the event offers. It is a great parade and something that the people in Baton Rouge really get behind.”

Baton Rouge’s Wearin’ of the Green parade rolls through the Garden District and Southdowns neighborhoods on Saturday, March 12, at 10 a.m. This will be the parade’s 31st year, which originally began as a small neighborhood event in 1986. Today, it attracts thousands of onlookers. The parade was originally created in 1985 when WBRZ’s Pat Shingleton and his wife, Mabyn, were visiting his hometown. As Shingleton watched the St. Patrick’s Day Parade line-up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, he realized there needed to be something like this in Baton Rouge. The following year saw the very first St. Patrick’s Day parade in Baton Rouge.

And now parade organizers can include the appearance of the Clydesdales to their timeline of events. The Clydesdales have been representing Budweiser since 1933, when August A. Busch, Jr. and Adolphus Busch III gave their father, August A. Busch, a six-horse Clydesdale team to commemorate the end of prohibition, according to anheuser-busch.com.

The eight-horse team — hitched to the famous beer wagon— last came to Baton Rouge for Bonne Fete, the 300th birthday of Baton Rouge in 1999.

“So they have been here, but it is a rare occasion,” Palmer said. “Baton Rouge has not had a hitch in almost 20 years. They do go to New Orleans each Mardi Gras, but the average Baton Rouge resident does not have the chance to see the hitch very often.”

This Clydesdales’ appearance is just one of a few hundred made annually by the traveling hitches. According to anheuser-busch.com, Canadians of Scottish descent brought the first Clydesdales to America in the mid-1800s. Today, the giant draft horses are used primarily for breeding and show. A single Clydesdale hitch horse will consume as much as 20 to 25 quarts of feed, 40 to 50 pounds of hay and 30 gallons of water per day.

According to Palmer, horses chosen for the Budweiser Clydesdale hitch must be at least three-years-old, 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 a black mane and tail. A gentle temperament is very important, as hitch horses meet millions of people each year.

“The breed itself are often referred to the Gentle Giants,” Palmer said. ”However, not every horse is chosen to be a member of a Clydesdale hitch. Also, to the physical characteristics, each horse must display the proper temperament to make the cut.”

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 Dalmatians will also be included in the parade.

According to Palmer, the horses will arrive Wednesday afternoon and stay at Mockler Beverage until Sunday when they depart for their next event. As of now, there are no plans for the Clydesdales to make a hitch delivery. Before the parade, the hitch will be staged at TJ Ribs Acadian where they will be getting ready from 7-9 a.m.

“The public is encouraged to stop by Ribs and see these majestic horses and take pictures,” Palmer said.

Along with the Budweiser Clydesdales, parade goers can look forward to Ivar’s St. Paddy’s Blowout Party. Ivar’s will be opening at 7 a.m. on March 12 with live music and drink specials all day long for the cover price of $10. Live music includes TrueSpin, Werewolf, Justin McCain Project, American Kids and DJ PushPlay.

Photo courtesy of Anheuser Busch

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MOCKLER BEVERAGE COMPANY

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