Cowboy Clydesdales offer carriage rides once again at Christmas Event

By Rita Halter Thomas

Christmas in Clinton is an annual event full of traditional holiday activities, but with a touch of cowboy flair. Would one expect anything different from a town well-known for hosting the National Championship Chuckwagon Races?

Fear not. Santa doesn’t race around this town in a chuckwagon. Instead, the first Saturday in December each year, Santa trades his reindeer and sleigh for a bright red carriage pulled by The Cowboy Clydesdales, whose names are as fitting as his reindeer: Nate and Gunner, Rocket and Hummer, Chance and Dixon.

Photo by Stephanie Willock

The festivities begin at 10 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 3, with the Christmas in Clinton Trade Show & Fundraiser at the Bar O F Ranch Store. There, patrons spend time with Santa, take photos with him and Mrs. Claus, browse rows of vendors, enjoy baked goods, hot cider or chocolate, and take free carriage rides with The Cowboy Clydesdales. Sometime around dusk, The Cowboy Clydesdales, with the help of a police escort, deliver Santa and Mrs. Claus via carriage from the Bar O F Ranch Store to downtown Clinton for the annual Christmas lighting ceremony.

According to Steve Landers Jr., owner of The Cowboy Clydesdales and area auto dealerships, a few years ago Dan and Peggy Eoff and their family, particularly their daughter, Dapple, wanted to do something a little different at Christmas, and the Clydesdales were a natural fit.

Breathing new life into the traditional downtown Christmas shopping experience, Dapple Eoff introduced the trade show fundraiser, tapping into the community’s spirit of giving, and now Christmas in Clinton has grown into a destination event with a worthy cause.

“We raise money for the backpack program for Clinton Public Schools. A hundred percent of the vendor fees from the Christmas Market Trade Show, as well as sales from the hot chocolate, apple cider, and bake sale, plus a portion of the sales from our western store, all go to fill 225 backpacks every week throughout the school year,” Ms. Eoff said.

“Steve is such a good community partner, and when he saw what we were doing, he wanted to be a part of that,” she said.  Landers purchased his first Clydesdales in 2018 and became a part of Christmas in Clinton the same year. “We started with four but had the idea to grow to six, so we got two more. They were all part of a world champion team of 12 out of North Carolina,” Landers said.

“They’re just amazing. I mean, who hasn’t grown up watching the Budweiser Clydesdales and just been in awe?” he said. “I love these horses, and I love getting them out, sharing them with our communities.”

The Clydesdale experience isn’t just in the rides, but it’s the entire production. “We get people calling, wanting to know when we’re going to get the horses out so they can watch us handle them and hook them up in the flashy harnesses we use,” Landers said.

The Cowboy Clydesdales graciously make appearances in other parades, school events such as homecomings and proms, and area community festivals because Landers believes in supporting small towns and locally owned businesses. When asked about the cost, Landers laughed. “I haven’t really put pen to paper to see just what it costs to haul them. I mean, I have an idea, but it’s probably best I don’t know exactly.”