JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL)- People follow them, line up for hours to see them, and marvel at the Budweiser Clydesdales.
The horses, trainers, and of course the dalmatians have been in Johnson City since Monday ahead of a busy week of parades and one-horse shows.
“It’s probably the best phone call I get to make all year,” said Mike Hubbard, the general manager of Holston Distributing. “We get to go do the Johnson City parade and pretty exciting for us. We’re a hometown distributor so to get to bring that to our hometown is pretty cool.”
It’s only been three years since the Budweiser Clydesdales were in the Tri-Cities for holiday events.
The last time they were here– it was the first time the eight-horse hitch made its way to the area in eight years. It took Holston Distributing five years to get them here then.
So, after two years of canceled parades and events– how did Holston Distributing manage to get them again?
“It actually started about April of last year. I actually put a request in, just like all the other wholesalers,” said Hubbard. “There are about 3,000 wholesalers that put a request in every year and just by the luck of the draw, I think because of their travel schedule this just worked out for them.”
There are three teams of Budweiser Clydesdales that travel about 300 days of the year making between 150 to 200 appearances across the country.
“We travel with a crew of seven people and everybody does everything except for driving the team of horses. There’s three of us that’s specially trained to drive the eight-horse hitch in all the parades… and then we travel with 10 horses and two dalmatians as well,” said Dave Thomas, the East Coast team Supervisor.
It takes three trailers to get them to each stop- two for the horses and one for their equipment and the iconic red Budweiser wagon.
“We started about a week or so ago getting the tents in here, they ship the food in here, we get stuff for the decorations… it’s probably a two to three-week process for us to get everything ready to go,” Hubbard said. “When you look down and see the people’s faces, and everybody is excited. I’ve never seen anybody go… walk in and go ‘It’s okay.’ Everybody’s excited… It just brings real excitement to the community… it’s a pretty good time of year for us.”
The more than six-foot tall almost 2,000-pound horses eat quite a bit too.
Each horse will eat around 40-50 pounds of hay a day and they’ll eat up to 10 pounds of grain a day,” said Hubbard. “And drink right around 30 gallons of water on a hot day.”
While each hitch holds eight horses, they travel in teams of 10 and rotate for appearances.
“They’re just like us and they all like to have days off so they all rotate through working in the eight-horse team and they’re all really super friendly… and they all have to take turns going out to meet the people,” Hubbard said. “The horses all have their own individual personalities… RJ here, he likes to give cuddles and he’s always the first one in the morning to come up and greet you… they’re all unique.”
Getting ready for those appearances is no easy task either.
“It takes us right around five hours to get ready to do an event and that includes grooming the horses, and washing their legs. It takes us four hours just to polish the harness and right before parade time- we braid their manes and tails,” explained Hubbard. “Once we’re on-site for an event we go ahead and harness the horses up and hook them to the wagon.”
All of that work is obviously worth it as people come from all over to see the Budweiser Clydesdales and marvel each time.