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Sunday, November 18, 2012

Clydesdales and Downtown         

  The weather outside was frightful but discouraged no one!  They were due at Central Park around 2 p.m. and by 1:30 people were already waiting.  When the distributor's rep was at the corner of 11th and Atlantic the buzz was kind of low level and then the first truck came into sight around the bakery and Red Otter.

  They came, one after the other, and the three were absolutely amazing as they filled the small parking lot near the now removed log cabin VFW hall.  The two with horses on one side of the parking lot and the one with the beer wagon along 11th Street.  What a production!

  Four horses to each of the first two vans.  They were impeccably clean and outfitted for the purpose like a submarine must be to house its crew.  Not only are these horses special, they live like it and are certainly accustomed to it.  The tack and hardware was kept in the same van as the wagon and in position in the parking lot before the first horse was removed.  They came out one by one, wrapped in their customized traveling blankets, and were brushed and powdered and pampered as if they were ready to compete with the toddlers in tiaras.  The Clydesdales are much better behaved though and obviously used to the individual attention lauded on them by their crew - at our house the dogs refer to us as staff when they think we aren't listening.

  What a crew too!  They are well prepared and equipped to cover any necessity including the inevitable scooping that is necessary amongst livestock of any caliber, even these beauties.  Hitched to the side of the semi-truck trailer combo for grooming some of the horses even lifted their hooves in anticipation of being brushed and powdered.  Once harnessed and awaiting the remainder of the team they appeared as athletes loosening up for their expected exploits and performance.  It may have started as a gimmick to surprise Mr. Busch but the Clydesdales have become an icon that can't be matched.

  The crowd gathered downtown and as the anticipated trek down Centre Street at 3 p.m. slid closer to 3:15 people were stepping into the street looking for the blue lights of the police cars leading the procession.  As the first car neared Centre and 8th the crowd began to hum with joy as - pardon the cliche - children of all ages lit up the streets with their smiles.  The horses were amazing!

  Driving an eight horse team is an overwhelming task anywhere I'm sure, but throw in the confines of downtown Fernandina with the cars and people everywhere and it was an accomplishment of herculean proportions.  Once in position outside the Palace Saloon we were allowed almost arm's length access to the beauties.  Eric, the driver who disembarked to deliver the fresh brewed beer to the Sheffields, was busily attending to his horses and answering questions from all comers.  The time passed much too fast for all but the horses, and the crew too I'm sure.  We made it back to Fourth and Centre in time to watch Eric at the reins negotiate the tight turn eastbound and could see the horses as they toyed with the load that had to be light to them as they clomped in unison heading back to their mobile stables and the ride back to Jacksonville's Equestrian Center.

  Our luck was the misfortune of Mayport NS who had a conflict and could not accommodate the opportunity of the Clydesdales.  The reception that greeted them was probably unexpected with such short notice and lack of any long term publicity.  Thanks to the distributor, North Florida Sales, for having the foresight to realize the potential for such a visit to our little Paradise by the sea.  Holly Hajdu, the Marketing Manager for North Florida Sales, had the wherewithal to pursue the permits and ensure the success of the show in spite of the short time span to accomplish her goal.  We should all be thankful for the Clydesdales' visit and the cooperation of the locals, including the city government at all levels, that ensured the success.

  What a show!  What a team of horses! What a city!

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