Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Wagon Days: With a Hitch and some Clydes

50th annual event attracts an array of visitors

Express Staff Writer

One of the highlights of the 50th annual Wagon Days Parade, the Budweiser Clydesdale Team trots along Sun Valley Road on Saturday at the start of the parade. The team is also celebrating an anniversary. It was 75 years ago that the first team of Clydesdales was given to August A. Busch, of Anheuser-Busch, to commemorate the repeal of prohibition. Photo by Willy Cook

The 50th anniversary of Wagon Days began with a chill, some clouds and a maze of events scattered like gold throughout the cities of Sun Valley and Ketchum on Saturday.

During the Papoose Club Pancake Breakfast on Saturday and Sunday, Ketchum's Town Plaza was alive with flapjacks, Old Time Fiddlers, kids bungee jumping at the busy kids' carnival, the Environmental Resource Center's Wild Connections booth for kids and the Rotary's duck booth.

After the traditional Black Jack Shoot-Out reenactment, some 19,000 spectators lined the streets of Ketchum to watch the parade run from the Horsemen's Center on Sun Valley Road to Knob Hill on North Main Street. There were high school marching bands, nearly a hundred wagons, carriages, coaches, riding clubs, the Budweiser Clydesdales and the star of the show, the Ketchum Fast Freight Line Big Hitch.

"It was a huge milestone," Sun Valley-Ketchum Chamber & Visitors Bureau Executive Director Carol Waller said. "Everybody was very excited to actually have the event this year, since it was canceled last year. For many in the community, it's their favorite event of the year. There was a lot of pent-up anticipation."

Organized by Ellen Gillespie and Heather LaMonica Deckhard of Sun Valley Events, the anniversary event was enhanced by extra activities throughout the weekend. A special ceremony was held to honor all the past grand marshals of the parade at Carol's Dollar Mountain Lodge.

Waller announced at the party that the Idaho Heritage Trust gave a $5,000 grant in honor of Grand Marshal Glenn Janss, to go to the Big Hitch Restoration Fund.

As well, the Wagon Days Committee and the city of Ketchum will receive the Esto Perpetua Award from the Idaho State Historical Society for their work. The Blaine County Museum and its Heritage Court—also a parade participant—also won the award. It was the first time a Blaine County entity had been honored in the 10 years of the award's existence.

"Appropriate recognition was made to the Holdings (owners of Sun Valley resort) by the cities of Ketchum and Sun Valley for input in Wagon Days," Waller said. "It's a joint effort of citizens, businesses and the cities. It's been a really community effort over the past 50 years."

The inclusion of the Budweiser Clydesdales was also a highlight.

The Budweiser Wagon drivers and crew of seven who attended the team "loved being here," Deckhard said. "They said it was so nice and lovely to be here where people were so excited. It was a big hit. Also they were really impressed with our hitch, which they said was a national icon, one of a kind."

The final shindig thrown during the official Wagon Days weekend was a party at Heather and Judd McMahan's Wood River Organics farm in Townsend Gulch, where the Clydesdales had boarded while in the valley. Heather's mother, Sue Martin, of Zaney's River Street Coffee House, catered the well-attended party.


Winners in the Wagon Days parade include the Paula Knickerbocker Foundation and Benjamin Prokasa from Coeur d'Alene in the New Wagon category and Bob Fosnot of Ennis, Mont., in the Authentic Wagon category. Gordon Rock of Ketchum and Mercer Island, Wash., swept the coach category and won Best in Show. Dr. Tom Beck of Boise carried the day in the carriage category and won the Kimberly Rhoads People's Choice Award. The Americanas from Rexburg won the Riding Club category; the Blaine County Democrats won the Float category and José Campos of Nampa and his dancing horses won the Open category. In the two-wheeled carts, Heidi Flood of Sliver Bell Ranch in Hailey was the winner.

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