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Parade moves bit by bit

December 13, 2004|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.VA. - The clip-clop of hooves on the pavement and the squeals of children in December could mean only one thing in Charles Town - the annual horse parade.

For the ninth year, a long line of horses trotted into town Sunday as part of the Charles Town Parade of Horses, giving the downtown shopping area a distinct feel of Christmas.

The horses shrugged their heads, setting off loud rings from the sleigh bells around their necks, and riders were decked out in everything from Civil War garb to black suits.

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"I love it. I love it. I think it's great for the town," Charles Town resident Diane Brown said.

The event started as a way to celebrate Charles Town's horse-racing industry and the area's rural way of life, but the event has cast a much broader spotlight on the horse business as horse owners from around the Tri-State area participate in the parade, organizers said.

Suzie Binns, who coordinates the event, said Sunday's parade was the biggest so far. More than 200 horses were in the parade, which is almost double the number of animals compared with some past parades, said Binns, a horse owner from Summit Point, W.Va.

The crowd that turned out to see the horses also seemed to be larger, organizers said. Dozens of people lined Washington Street, especially at the intersection of George and Washington streets.

Horse owners rode on or walked along with their animals, or rode in wagons.

In one of the units, horses pulled a covered wagon representing the First Regiment West Virginia Cavalry. Garland was draped along the side of the wagon and a wreath hung on the back.

When it came to decorating horses, anything went.

Some had red, velvet antlers attached to their heads, while someone in another group sewed red hats that fit over the ears of the horses.

Little white balls hung from the tips of the head coverings.

There were "mini" horses, as well as big ones, like the majestic-looking white horses that pulled a wagon from Wilt's 2+2 Farms.

The mammoth horses seemed to be doing a fancy trot as they made their way west on Washington Street.

The scene almost had a Charles Dickens feel to it. A chill was in the air, and some spectators stood behind shop windows along Washington Street as the horses passed.

"Hi, Santa Claus!" yelled a child along the street as old St. Nick passed on horseback.

The units lined up at Charles Town Races & Slots and after making their pass along Washington Street, looped around onto Congress Street and headed back to the track.

Horse owners and riders competed for 10 awards in the event, such as best group and most original unit, Binns said.

For some spectators, it was the first time they had been to the parade, even though they have lived in the area for years. Jamie and Kevin Johnson, who have lived in Charles Town for three years, decided to come down after Jamie Johnson saw signs advertising the event in store windows.

"I like all the parades. It's fun. It's such a pretty little town," Jamie Johnson said.

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