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August 27, 2009

Giddy-uppin' with the Clydesdales

You know what the most awesomest part of Burlington is? The fact that on any given day in the three-and-a-half-week summer we enjoy, some kind of crazy-assness is going on. One day someone's building a microhouse in City Hall Park, and the next day pit bulls are tearing each other asunder in front of that little house. Whatever people say about Burlington — it's too provincial, it's too precious, it's too hippie, it's too commercial — they can never say it's boring. Well, they can, but they'd be wrong. Today proves my point.

As I was reading the paper this morning over my bowl of cardboard flakes and fake milk, I happened upon an ad touting the arrival of the Budweiser Clydesdale horses today at noon on Church Street. Glory be! This sure is my lucky day, I thought. There's nothing I love more than draft horses, unless it's a butterscotch-dipped creemee or karate, so I figured I had to carve out some time in my very busy schedule to go check them out. 

Apparently the Clydes are in town from Merrimack, N.H., where they hang out and eat hay, for the Champlain Valley Fair, which starts Saturday. Nothing goes better with fried Oreos, cotton candy and turkey legs the size of a toddler than a huge helping of Clydesdale. Yum. At noon sharp, I ditched out of the top secret, off-site work location I call my bed and hustled over to see the Clydes. I found them at a staging area on St. Paul Street between Main and College streets. Three huge Budweiser tractor trailers that serve as the horses' luxe accommodation while on the road lined the street. I got there a little late and missed the animals getting all tacked up, but Manny — one of the equine grooms — told me it takes about an hour to get the eight horses all dolled up for the day. Dang, those nags are high-maintenance! Actually, they're not nags at all; they're all geldings who are at least four years old and stand six feet at the shoulder.

IMG_3207 A crowd stretched three deep the entire block and watched as the mighty beasts waited to giddy-up. Before the two hitch drivers, bedecked in spiffy green pants and matching conductor hats, got the team rolling, a whole bunch of official people had to get their pictures taken in front of the lead horses. I took the opportunity to grab a few snaps myself, but was immediately told that only official media could get close to the horses. Uh, hullo? Don't you know who I am from my many appearances on the very popular television program "Inside Seven Days?" Or what about my guest appearance on WPTZ when I filled in for Dan Bolles, to disastrous effect? It's B to the S is what I say.

Once I sufficiently proved I was a "working journalist," I was given an all-access pass to the Clydes. And by "all access" I mean that I could move about a foot closer to them than the rest of the sorry crowd. I reached out to pet one of them, and Manny, who up to that point was engrossed in polishing up the harnesses for the 900th time, wheeled around and yelled at me not to touch the animals. Yeesh, you'd think they were made of tissue paper and my hands were soaking wet. So, rule one when hanging around the Clydes — no touching.

Rule two — no joking. After watching one of the team take an epic dumperoo on the pavement, I made a comment to the woman charged with shoveling the poo into a huge plastic bucket: "Looks like you drew the short straw today." No acknowledgement, not even a harrumph. I'm hoping she was hearing impaired.

IMG_3215 The best part of the whole extravaganza was watching Barley, the team's Dalmatian mascot, yawn in boredom from atop the wagon filled with fake cases of swill. I'm pretty sure Barley was pee-ohhed that someone dressed him in a gleaming gold harness, a la a  Folsom Street leather daddy. When the whole team finally got moving, Barley stood on the wagon, wagging his tail and exercising amazing balance.

Once all the important people had had their pics taken in front of the team, the wagon got moving, heading up College Street for a little tour of the city. The crowds followed, though not me. I had very important work to do. Like eating a three-hour lunch and sunning myself.

For a slideshow of the Clydes in downtown BTV, click here.  For Budweiser Clydesdale trivia, click here.

Check the blog for more pics.

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