Friday, January 1, 2010

Driving Mr. Stennett

Couple’s carriages have transported many Wagon Days grand marshals

Express Staff Writer

Bill Sherbine and Mary Ann Knight are lending their Amish-made vis-ŕ-vis carriage to the Wagon Days parade grand marshal, as has been their tradition for more than a decade. The couple said they bought this and their other Amish carriages specifically so they could contribute to the many parades in the area. Photo by David N. Seelig

While the grand marshals of the Ketchum Wagon Days Parade change each year, the carriage they ride in has remained the same for more than a decade.

Bill Sherbine and Mary Ann Knight, who own several similar vehicles, have lent the Amish-made vis-à-vis to the parade each year since 1998.

Since then, Sherbine said, "We haven't missed too many years of hauling the grand marshal—I can't remember who all we've done!"

This year, Sherbine will drive former state Sen. Clint Stennett or his wife, Michelle, up Main Street in the newest and showiest of the couple's three Amish-made carriages. Stennett, the grand marshal, has been undergoing treatment for brain cancer.

Sherbine has already had the honor of pulling Stennett as grand marshal, when he served as grand marshal in the 2009 Hailey Fourth of July Parade.

None of the carriages was bought new, said Sherbine and Knight. In fact, it's only by chance that they ended up purchasing them.

Knight said they had driven past an open shed housing one of the carriages near Kuna, Idaho, for several years before she and Sherbine approached the owner about selling the carriage.

"We just happened to see it," she said, and they had recognized that the carriage was Amish-made because of their involvement with the Southern Idaho Draft Horse and Mule Club.

"We could just see what it was," Knight said. "They're pretty carriages."

Sherbine said he'd been wanting to help out with parades in the area already, and seeing the carriage in the shed provided him and Knight with that opportunity.

The carriage, which is now used to pull the Blaine County Historical Society Heritage Court, was owned by a man who had been using it to give horse-drawn carriage rides to people in Boise.

The seller was also giving up an Amish-made 12-passenger carriage, a vehicle Sherbine and Knight ended up using to drive the Atkinson family when they were collectively named grand marshals last year.

The carriage that is normally used for the grand marshal's procession was the last one purchased, said Sherbine, who bought it almost new from an Oregon couple who couldn't make the payments on it.

Sherbine and Knight say they don't get much of a chance to see the parade anymore, what with their active involvement in it. However, they have a long tradition of participation in Wagon Days.

Knight's first husband was Don Knight, a former deputy marshal for Ketchum. She said she used to ride on a float with him in the late 1950s and early '60s, but Sherbine added that the parade has changed greatly since then.

"In those days, it was more Wild West," Sherbine said.

"It was a lot different than it is now," Knight agreed. "The floats were covered with bar scenes and dancing girls and such."

The Big Hitch, Knight said, is always a memorable part of the parade, mostly because of the number of ways things could go wrong.

"It's always an experience when something happens with the main team," Knight said. "There've been some accidents that could have been pretty bad."

Wagons or carriages such as theirs didn't generally ride in the parade in the early days, Sherbine said, and more people rode horses than were driven.

In fact, Sherbine and Knight are more riders than drivers themselves, and used saddle horses to haul the carriage for the first three years before they purchased their current teams.

The team that pulls the grand marshal is a pair of matched Percheron-Morgan crosses, which Sherbine describes as "a little more showy."

The crosses, who are named Dick and Dan, also respond better to commands, Knight said. The horses' responsiveness allows the driver to turn circles in the road when the parade gets slow, which is always a crowd-pleaser.

Regulars to the Sun Valley Lodge may recognize Knight and Sherbine's horses, as they used to pull sleighs at Sun Valley throughout the ski season. Now, Knight said, the horses mainly work during Christmas, as interest in the sleigh rides seems to have waned.

"And it got too cold!" Sherbine said.

Sherbine used to drive the sleighs, but now he and Knight spend their winters in Arizona with friends.

The couple said they plan to spend the Wagon Days weekend with those same friends, along with others from Utah who come in specially for the festivities and to soak up the Wagon Days atmosphere.

"We try to take in as much of it as we can," Knight said.

Katherine Wutz:

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