No horsin’ around for Eagle
About 40,000 people watched the Vail America days parade yesterday, but one person was absent for almost the first time in 20 years.
Eagle resident Steve Jones, 69, has been a part of the Vail parade almost every year since shortly after Beaver Creek Stables opened in the 1980s. His horses carried town officials for about 15 years, and for the last five years he rode his Harley-Davidson motorcycle in the parade.
This year, he was missing. Instead of going to the parade, Jones was helping his son ” who also works with horses ” prepare a team of horses to go to a wedding.
Jones was the owner of Beaver Creek Stables from 1985 until he sold it two years ago. His stables provided horses for the fourth of July Vail parade until he decided to stop sending horses to the parade so he could spend more time running trail rides on the fourth.
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Jones said he usually took one or two trailers full of horses to the parade each year – between 12 and 24 horses. His horses would be saddled and lead the parade, carrying town council members or forest service rangers.
Jones said his horses didn’t get spooked or cause any problems at the parades, although a parade observer threw a water balloon at one of his horses once; water fights are prohibited now, according to the Town of Vail.
“I wouldn’t do it if it were silly or dangerous. There are thousands of people at the parade ” you would never want anything silly,” he said. “Holy cow, no. We don’t do silly things.”
Jones always chose his horses carefully, he said, so any of the horses in his stable could have marched in the parade. “(Horses) are just like people,” he said. “Like if you were staffing an office ” you’d buy a horse and he’d work for a few years and then get grouchy,” and be replaced.
Betty and Gerald Ford would watch the parade every summer from the porch at Pepi’s Bar and Restaurant in Vail, Jones said. They never rode his horses in the parade, although he met them at other times, as he took them on horseback rides and gave them rides in his buggy to the winter Christmas tree lighting in Vail.
Jones said he enjoyed working in the parade for so many years and may return next year to ride his motorcycle.
“It was a real feeling of Americana and the fourth of July,” he said. “You were just proud to be there.”
About 40,000 people show up to the parade annually now, said Laurie Asmussen, Vail America Days parade coordinator.
Asmussen said one change to the parade since she last participated in 1990 was the addition of a theme – this year’s parade was beach-themed, and past themes include weather and periods in Vail’s history.
There were 54 businesses in this year’s parade, parade organizer JoAnn Moore said. The parade has had as many as 100 entries, but she likes to keep the numbers around 50 because it cuts down the parade time. This year, the parade took two hours to wind from its starting point in Vail Village to its close in Lionshead.
When Moore started working with the parade ” she entered a float for First Bank 26 years ago – she said the parade was smaller, with around 25 floats, but it was hard to tell.
“It was so chaotic, there could have been 100,” she said.
From that chaos the parade has evolved into a structured event with a float application and rules for entering the parade. For example, you can’t just drive a Wendy’s truck down the street now, Moore said; the vehicle has to be decorated.
“It was just fun – and mostly a local celebration and party. Since then it’s become quite a bit more organized,” she said. “(It’s gone) from the scurrying with locals going crazy to a complete script.”