SMOKEY POINT — The Arlington Walmart played host to some unique four-legged guests during this year’s Thanksgiving weekend.
The world-famous Budweiser Clydesdales, the symbol of Anheuser-Busch since 1933, had their scheduled public appearance at the Navy Exchange in Marysville on Friday, Nov. 23, rained out, but fairer weather allowed them not only to keep their appointment at the Arlington Walmart on Sunday, Nov. 25, but also to extend their stay from two to five hours.
According to Bob Fiedler of Crown Distributing, the area appearances of the eight-horse hitch, harnessed and hitched to the well-known red beer wagon, are part of the Budweiser Clydesdales’ November “Military Tour,” which will also include a visit to Joint Base Lewis-McChord Nov. 28-30.
“The Clydesdales’ appearances in Marysville and Arlington are among hundreds made annually by the traveling hitches,” Fiedler said. “Canadians of Scottish descent brought the first Clydesdales to America in the mid-1800s. Today, the giant draft horses are used primarily for breeding and show.”
Fiedler explained that horses chosen for the Budweiser Clydesdale hitch must be at least three years old, stand approximately 18 hands (or six feet) tall at the shoulder, weigh an average of 2,000 pounds, and be bay in color, have four white legs and a blaze of white on the face, along with a black mane and tail.
“A gentle temperament is very important as hitch horses meet millions of people each year,” Fiedler said. “A single Clydesdale hitch horse will consume as much as 20-25 quarts of feed, 40-50 pounds of hay and 30 gallons of water per day.”
Jay Wilson, key account manager with Crown Distributing, elaborated that the Walmart site was chosen because it’s just west of the Arlington Crown Distributing site, along 172nd Street NE, and because its roomy parking lot provides ample space for horses, cars and people to maneuver.
“Everybody wants to see the Clydesdales,” Wilson said. “They’re beautiful animals, and an iconic symbol of America. They’ve been around for a long time.”
John Haberle of Arlington had never seen Clydesdales up close, so he made a point of arriving early at the Arlington Walmart parking lot to check them out.
“They’re just these marvelous, wonderful horses, and they’ve got this neat little dog, a Dalmatian, sitting up straight right alongside the two drivers in green coats,” Haberle said of the Dalmatian that’s a standard part of each hitch, harkening back to the early days of brewing, when Dalmatians were bred and trained to protect the horses and guard the wagon when the driver went inside to make deliveries. “I was tremendously impressed. All the animals were very friendly.”
Haberle and Wilson both estimated that several hundred onlookers turned out to snap photos of the horses, who were unloaded from a trailer before they made a circuit of the Walmart parking lot.