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Thousands greet Budweiser Clydesdales at Erwin Food City

The Budweiser Clydesdales drew a crowd of thousands to the Food City store in Erwin. (Erwin Record Staff Photos by Richard Rourk)

By Richard Rourk

Thousands flooded Erwin to get a glimpse at the legendary Budweiser Clydesdales and their team.

The crowds poured into the Food City parking lot around 3 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 4. The crowd cheered as three large red tractor-trailers pulled into place. The crew from Anheuser Busch  wasted no time unloading the famous beer wagon, then the main attraction made their appearances.

One by one, all eight of the Clydesdales were brought out of their trailer and were prepped and attached to the wagon. One of the Clydesdale’s handlers spoke to The Erwin Record about the turnout for the event.

“This is the largest crowd I believe we have had at a store event,” Lane Soendker said.

According to Soendker, his group tours the east coast and is based out of St. Louis.

Attaching the Clydesdales took close to an hour as the crowd watched and took pictures. Once all eight Clydesdales were attached, the two wagon drivers came out dressed in green and they were joined on top of the wagon by the other famous mascot of the crew, the Budweiser Dalmatian.

According to Holston Distributing General Manager Mike Hubbard, this event took more than five years to plan. The Clydesdales stop in Erwin was sponsored by Holston Distributing.

“We have been reaching out to Anheuser Busch for more than 5 years; it just all came together with both the Johnson City and Bristol Christmas Parades taking place in the same week,” Hubbard said.

Erwin Food City Manager Jacob Ratliff was both overwhelmed, but excited about the turnout. “This is huge,” Ratliff said. “We had to change a few things around, but everything is going to work out.”

The crowd size did cause extra stress on the Erwin Police Department.

“We estimated between 2,000-4,000 people came through, but we had officers at each intersection to keep traffic moving as best as it could,” Erwin Police Chief Regan Tilson said.

The Clydesdales and beer wagon made their rounds throughout the parking lot before packing up for the night.

“We are thankful for the community for coming out and being so supportive, and we are thankful for the Erwin Police Department and the Tennessee Highway Patrol for helping with traffic on short notice,” Ratliff said. “We also wish to thank Holston Distributing, Anheuser Busch and the Food City security for making this once in a lifetime chance possible.”