Budweiser Clydesdales parade through downtown Kent

The Budweiser Clydesdales gallop down Franklin Avenue in downtown Kent on Thursday, Aug. 11, 2016.

Cameron Gorman

Hundreds of observers, with their cameras and phones held high above their heads, gathered on the sidewalks of downtown Kent Thursday evening to catch a glimpse of six world famous, four-legged horses.

Even through the air was muggy and humid air, a sense of excited anticipation surrounded the crowds.

Even through the muggy, humid air, there was a sense of anticipation.

The Budweiser Clydesdales, an iconic team of horses that pull a wagon loaded with Anheuser-Busch’s Budweiser brand beer, trotted through downtown Kent.

“I’ve seen it years ago,” said Lisa Bonds, a Kent resident. “(I) saw them at SeaWorld, and they do the whole hookup, and they lead them away. It’s just a really neat thing, they’re an iconic symbol, so it’s kind of cool to see.”

A parade featuring the horses, famous both as a team of exemplary Clydesdales and a brand-famous icon, started at Hometown Bank Plaza and ran through the streets of downtown. Despite stormy skies and looming rain, the parade began at the scheduled time of  6:30 p.m. and continued until 8:30.

The team stopped along their route to deliver beer to local establishments and pause for photo ops with observers.

“I’ve seen the horses, but I don’t think I’ve seen them all harnessed up. I’ve gone to Grant’s Farm, (where they stay), in Missouri (though),” said Wadsworth-area resident Christy Cocklin.

The carefully-bred horses chosen as Budweiser’s Clydesdales are all born and bred at Warm Springs Ranch in Missouri.

Each horse is selected for a place on one of the traveling teams based on their possession of strictly specified physical attributes, including proper markings: a bay colored coat, white feet, a “blaze” of white on the face, and a black mane and tail.

“They start being humanized when they’re a year old at Grant’s Farm in St. Louis. They stay there from 1 to 3 (years old). At three years old they go to our home base in Merrimack, New Hampshire, and that’s also our training center,”  said Burton Westbrook, a Clydesdale Handler for Anheuser-Busch for 36 years. “So they’re there from three until late four year old, early five year olds.”

The tradition of the horse-pulled wagon dates back to the end of the Prohibition, when, according to Budweiser, the two sons of August A. Busch, Sr. presented him with a six-horse team to celebrate the repeal of the nation-wide ban on alcohol.

A second hitch of Clydesdales—pulling a beer wagon—subsequently continued on to a tour of the United States, visiting several major cities, including a delivery to then-President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Since the ‘50s, in order to celebrate the opening of Budweiser’s Newark brewery, Dalmatians have also traveled with the team.

“The reason we use Dalmatians—the original reason—is to keep people from stealing beer off the side of the wagon when the drivers took the beer into the tavern,”  Westbrook said.

The wagon and horse team have been an iconic symbol of the brand for many years, and, judging by the large turnout for the parade, despite spots of rain and gray skies, the Clydesdales remain an anticipated sight for anyone whose town they visit.

“They’ve been around for 400 to 500 years, they’re majestic, and nowadays, in the last 30 to 40 years, a lot of people… didn’t grow up using them on the farm like the older people did,” Westbrook said. “So when they see ours, it’s just an iconic majesty that they really like looking at.”

Contact Cameron Gorman at [email protected].