FAIRFIELD — It means different things to different people, but the sight of the massive Budweiser Clydesdale horses is nothing short of awesome.
So it was for hundreds of people who showed up at the Anheuser-Busch brewery parking lot Wednesday afternoon as the West Coast team of Clydesdales made their second public appearance in as many days.
“Always good to see these Clydesdales,” said Jun Gaspar, a Fairfield native. “Born and raised in Fairfield, I grew up looking at that sign every day. Raised on Budweiser.”
Gaspar visited the Clydesdales with his wife Michele and 3-year-old son Leo, who was into the animals.
“The big horses, he actually likes the dog,” Gaspar said, referring to the dalmatian sitting atop the wagon with the driver. “They’re magnificent beasts.”
Seeing the giant horses up close and personal instead of on TV was a special treat, too.
“They’re pretty amazing,” Michele Gaspar said.
“Just how well they’re kept and groomed,” Jun Gaspar said. “The whole setup is just awesome.”
The team or horses visiting Fairfield is one of only a few in the nation, said Chris Wiegert, an assistant supervisor with Anheuser-Busch.
“We have three hitches total,” Wiegert said. “This one covers the West Coast and we go all the way to the Mississippi River.”
The Clydesdales visit towns for various events, including parades, as well as sporting events and fairs.
“We’re on tour for 320 days a year,” Wiegert said.
Major events for the horses include the Super Bowl, NASCAR races and Major League Baseball games.
“People see them on TV and they want to get their picture taken with them,” Wiegert said, noting that events like Wednesday’s are for just that purpose.
With eight horses hitched to the signature beer wagon and a working tap on the back of the wagon serving Budweiser beer to those who were of age, the event drew quite the crowd.
Because of the demanding schedule, Wiegert said the company maintains a herd of around 200 horses, including breeding stock and retired horses. The herd is spread across the country among six facilities and three farms.
“We travel with 10 horses, but we only hitch eight, so there’s always two spares,” Wiegert said. ”We rotate the horses so they get their rest.”
The constant travel is also exhausting for the horses’ human counterparts.
“It’s hard for family life, but it’s worth it,” Wiegert said.
In order to make the teams, the Clydesdales must be 18 hands tall (6 feet at the peak of the ridge between the shoulders), and must conform to Budweiser’s specifications for markings so that they match the other horses.
Zak Folkman of Vacaville visited the Clydesdales with his children, Logan, 3, and Zoey, 6.
“My son and daughter were really excited to hear about it,” Folkman said. “We’ve actually seen them before at the Dixon (May) Fair, (but) it’s not quite like this. They weren’t on the wagon and stuff with the dogs, they were just standing there.”
Seeing the Clydesdales in such an intimate encounter was exciting.
“You get to see how big they are. On TV you kind of don’t really realize how big they are until you’re right next to them,” said Folkman, who drives a Ford Explorer. “My daughter was telling Logan, because he’s never really seen them, she told him they’re bigger than the truck.”
An apt description indeed.
Reach Mike Corpos at 427-6979 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/mcorposdr.