THE END OF AN ICONIC ERA
Everybody loves the Budweiser Clydesdales. For decades the iconic horses have appeared in parades, at events festivals, sports events, even air shows. Part of what made them so appealing to organizer was the brewery’s long-standing practice of absorbing nearly all of the cost of showcasing the horses . . . until now. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch recently reported that Anheuser-Busch has quietly begun charging $2OOO per day for Clydesdale appearances saying that the fee helps to offset the $8OOO per day cost of putting a hitch team on the road. Until now, event organizers or beer wholesalers were asked to pay nominal costs for stabling and feed. According to Brewery Marketing Vice President Keith Levy, the fee shouldn’t reduce the number of events for the Clydesdales because demand is far greater than the number of available dates.
Since 1933, when a team of Clydesdales delivered the first post-Prohibition beer brewed in St. Louis, the horses have appeared in two presidential inaugural parades and make more than 9OO appearances at 2OO events every year. The teams, which consist of eight horses pulling the Budweiser beer cart, travel the country for months at a time. The brewery has 25O Clydesdales in total. Their handling has become especially sensitive since 2OO8, when InBev purchased Anheuser-Busch. Part of the merger agreement requires the combined company to continue to support the Clydesdales operations. Anheuser-Busch has since made some changes to the program. Last year, it closed the breeding center in California and opened a large new breeding farm in Boonville, Missouri. The company has also consolidated hitch teams spread across the country to three locations in St. Louis, Boonville and Merrimack, New Hampshire. Although the company says the fee is not aimed at generating revenue – they still pay the bulk of the costs – the price is still too high for small events particularly those put on by non-profits. Once again, the little guy gets squeezed out.