Meg Hibbert Contributing writer
A local Budweiser distributor gave a party for the world-famous Clydesdales – but at the last moment, the horses got sick and couldn’t come.
P.A. Short Distributing Co. was the host. It is headed by Phillip Short and son Aden Short, who live in Salem with their families. The picnic and get-together for the 80 employees and their families was held March 12 at the company’s location in Hollins.
The team of eight magnificent Clydesdale horses known as the “Hitch” and the famous beer wagon shown in commercials made it to Hollins University where the Hitch and two spare Clydesdales were stabled.
But earlier on Thursday, they headed off to overnight at the Virginia Horse Center in Lexington because four of the horses had developed slight fevers, Philip Short explained. All the national appearances of the Clydesdales had been canceled, too.
The team was to have been the star of Roanoke’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Saturday, which was also canceled due to the Coronavirus health threat.
Although they were disappointed, the 225 people gathered at the beer warehouse had a good time, eating food from the Mountain Grille food truck out of Salem, drinking beer and soft drinks all supplied by P.A. Short. They also tapped their toes to tunes by the five members of “Wound Tight.” Some of the littlest children flatfooted to the Bluegrass music.
Employees and their children, retailers and invited friends visited and toured the warehouse that employees spent several days sprucing up the spaces and waxing the floors for the guests.
Most spent their time outside, enjoying the sunny and mild weather on Thursday which had people in a good mood.
The night before, the Shorts and some of the top leadership visited the Clydesdales at the Hollins’ stables.
Four-year-old granddaughter Vivien Short took along her miniature stuffed Clydesdale her dad, Aden, brought her. Her brother, baby Frank, and mom Hannah saw the horses, too, and they, Aden and granddad Philip posed for pictures in front of the Clydesdales’ horse trailer.
B.K. Short recalled the last time the Clydesdales came to the Roanoke Valley was for one of the summer horse shows in the early 2000s.
Many of the party guests were disappointed not to see any of the Clydesdales and their accompanying Dalmation, but happy to have the afternoon party anyway.
“I’ve seen the Clydesdales on television and I wanted to see them in person,” Salem resident Debbie Delk said. She and husband Heath were eating mini-corn dogs, French fries, cheeseburgers and hot dogs with grandchildren Autumn, Paisley and Steven.
Their daddy, P.A. Short employee Taylor Harris, was one of those who helped set up for the party. “I came in today to set up all these tables,” he explained. “We still had a good turnout, and good weather.”
As it happened, the party was probably one of the last large gatherings in the Roanoke Valley for now. Later that day, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency, and issued COVID-19 guidelines encouraging people to avoid large crowds, to work from home and practice safe hygiene.
The Clydesdales, each weighing 2,000 pounds, have been mascots for Budweiser since 1933. P.A. Short was founded as C.C. Bova which distributed fruits and vegetables and later, beer.
Frank Bova became the sole owner of the company and grew it. Phillip A. Short was the company’s attorney who became vice president and minority owner. In 1990, Short became sole owner after Frank Bova died, and the following year the company’s name was changed to P.A. Short Distributing.
It now distributes not only Budweiser but other alcoholic beverages and regional beers such as Devil’s Backbone which had a trailer at the picnic.