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Horses, riders take to the streets in annual horse parade

December 16, 2002|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - An annual event that is gaining popularity for its unique way of showcasing the region's horse industry made its seventh appearance in Charles Town Sunday afternoon.

An estimated 150 horses and riders clopped their way into town during the Charles Town Parade of Horses.

The event was started by Charles Town resident Betsy Wells, a horse enthusiast herself who started the parade as a way to celebrate Charles Town's horse racing industry and the area's rural way of life.

But the event has ended up casting a much broader spotlight on the horse business.

Now horse owners from as far away as Berryville, Va., and Myersville, Md., participate in the parade.

Some participants rode horseback Sunday while others rode in wagons and buggies.

Antietam Farms of Keedysville, which offers horse riding lessons and other related services, brought 11 horses to Charles Town to participate in the parade, said Antietam spokeswoman Jennifer Butts.

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The horse farm used three horse trailers to bring the animals to a large field in front of Charles Town Races & Slots, where the units gathered for the parade route that led down Washington Street into town.

Some of the farm's horse riding students rode in the parade, Butts said.

"I love it. I hope it's something they keep up," Butts said.

While a hit with horse owners, only a small crowd showed up to the parade and some wondered why more people do not come to the event.

Carol Holder, who came from Falls Church, Va., to see the parade, said she believes the event has a lot of potential. Children could sing carols from the back of some of the wagons to add a special effect, Holder said.

"They need to have shops open. If they would have been open, we probably would have bought. Let me be in charge. I can fix this parade up," said Holder, who came with her friend, Jane Scott of Shannondale, W.Va.

Some downtown businesses were open while others were closed.

Susan Guay just happened to be in Shu Chen Chinese restaurant when she walked outside and saw the parade.

"It was delightful. Everyone loves a parade," said Guay, who is in the process of moving to Charles Town from Leesburg, Va.

Although parade coordinator Suzie Binns did not have a crowd estimate Sunday, she said she would like to see more people downtown for the event. In the days leading up to the event, Binns said she received a lot of phone calls from people wanting information about the parade.

The equine event also blended in the feel of Christmas. Red ribbons and bells were attached to the manes of the animals, and the bells rang out in the downtown shopping area as the horses shrugged their heads.

Santa Claus rode in one of the wagons and riders tossed out candy and wished everyone a Merry Christmas.

Following the parade, the horses circled around Congress Street and headed back to the open field in front of the race track.

Awards were given to various units for categories such as most original horse group and best carriage.

Horse owners carried on the celebration in the field, drinking hot beverages and eating cookies outside their trailers and trading stories.

"Not too many towns would shut down and let us do it. But it's their industry here," said Sally Wolfe, who rode her early 1900s carriage in the parade with her husband, Dickie, and friend Sheryl Reid of Berryville, Va.

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