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Anheuser-Busch Clydesdales will visit area

Monday, December 17, 2001

Anheuser-Busch Clydesdales
SIKESTON - They may not be Dasher or Dancer or Prancer or Vixen and certainly not Rudolph. But right along with Santa's reindeer, another famous team - the Anheuser-Busch Clydesdales - will visit Sikeston in December.

Eight massive work horses, pulling a 1900s-era wagon, will be on display for five days in Sikeston thanks to the Bob Ralph Distributing Co.

"It is very hard to get a visit by the team," said Jamie Ralph, sales manager. "But they were coming through the area and offered to make a stop and of course we agreed."

Area residents will have several chances to see the team and even have their photos taken with the horses and wagon. The Clydesdales can be seen from 2 to 4 p.m. Wednesday at the Sikeston Elks Club; 1 to 3 p.m. Friday at Sikeston Factory Outlet Stores; 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday in downtown Sikeston; and the final presentation 1 to 3 p.m. Dec. 23 at the South Pointe Shopping Center will include a special photo session. Also a visit to New Madrid by the team is scheduled for Thursday.

It is an impressive sight said Ralph. "They are so beautiful and so, so gigantic," he said about the horses which were last featured in Sikeston at the Hooters Golf Tournament in 1998.

Lisa Neumeyer, manager of the Sikeston Factory Outlet Stores, didn't have the opportunity to see the horses then. She said she is looking forward to the team's stop at the Sikeston Factory Outlet Stores next Friday.

"We are really excited about having them here. A lot of people have never had a chance to see them. They are such a novelty," said Neumeyer.

She added her daughters will be among the first in line to see the massive horses and their wagon when they arrive at the Stores. "Since we are having them on Friday, the schools will be out so we hope a lot of kids will get the opportunity to see the Clydesdales," said Neumeyer.

What they will see will be horses which have met rigid requirements to become one of the traveling teams which promote Anheuser-Busch not only across the United States but even in foreign countries. To qualify for one of the traveling hitches, an Anheuser-Busch Clydesdale must be a gelding (neutered male) at least 4 years of age. The horse must be 6-feet tall and weigh between 1,800 to 2,000 pounds. All the horses on the team are bay in color, have four white stocking feet, a blaze of white on the face and a black mane and tail.

The physical ability of each horse determines its position in the hitch. Wheelhorses (the pair closest to the wagon) must be large and strong enough to start the wagon's movement and to use their weight to help slow or stop the vehicle. The body (second position) and swing (third position) pairs must be agile to turn the wagon. The leaders (the pair in front, furthest from the wagon) must be the fastest and most agile pair.

While the team features eight Clydesdales, 10 will actually make the trip to Sikeston. Two horses travel as alternates. Also Dalmatians travel with the hitches.

"They are the most beautiful animals that you could ever see. They are so large, almost majestic," said Missy Marshall, executive director of the Sikeston Area Chamber of Commerce. "And they are well taken care of. It is an experience you just can't pass up to see a great creature like this."

Marshall and the Chamber are working with Ralph Distributing Company to ensure the animals are well cared for during their visit. The Sikeston Airport is clearing out two hangars where the animals will be housed.

Although the Clydesdale hitch may be a new sight for many local residents, it has been a part of the Anheuser-Busch tradition for nearly 70 years. The Anheuser-Busch Clydesdales were formally introduced on April 7, 1933, when they thundered down Pestaliozzi Street in St. Louis, carrying the first case of post-Prohibition beer from the St. Louis Anheuser-Busch brewery.

Today the teams are carefully maintained and serve as a public relations tool. The company maintains two breeding farms, Grant's Farm in St. Louis and a second farm near Romoland, Calif.

Their visit to Sikeston will also serve as an opportunity to promote a local charity. Marshall said during the visit Wednesday afternoon at the Elks Lodge, those viewing the horses are encouraged to bring dog and cat food to donate to the Sikeston Bootheel Humane Society.

"This time of the year the shelter runs low with food," said Marshall. "While we are hosting these great animals which are so well taken care of they will in turn help out those less fortunate animals."