Crowds lining Calhoun Street in Old Town Bluffton erupted in cheers Friday afternoon as three 50-foot tractor-trailers carrying Budweiser's famous Clydesdales arrived.
The horses were in town to help commemorate Old Town Dispensary's five-year anniversary with a parade up Calhoun Street and through The Promenade. At around 3 p.m., the trucks stopped in front of the restaurant, then began the lengthy process of hitching the horses to Budweiser's red and gold beer wagon.
One horse, visible from an open truck door, stuck out his long tongue and nodded his head as if greeting spectators.
"Look, he's wiggling!" a young girl said, pointing at the horse.
"I can't see," her friend complained, straining to peer around the wall of adults in front of her.
A Dalmatian named Brewer was the first animal to disembark, and playfully sniffed other dogs in the crowd before taking a place on the wagon. Dalmatians have been the Budweiser Clydesdales' mascot since 1950.
Eight enormous horses trundled down the truck ramps next to a chorus of "oohs" and "ahhs."
"Oh my God, they're huge!" exclaimed a spectator.
"They're beautiful," declared another.
The horses looked immaculate with their tails braided and tucked, their black manes styled with red and white flowers and ribbons, and their reddish-brown coats gleaming.
Standing 6 feet tall at the shoulder, the Clydesdales dwarfed their handlers, who took special care to wipe any specks of dirt off their white forehead blazes and to avoid their dinner-plate-sized hooves.
Through it all, the beasts were still and calm, even as people surged forward with their phones held aloft for photos.
"I've never seen so many people in Old Town Bluffton in my life," said Charles Kalmbach of Okatie.
Kalmbach said he loves horses and has two of his own, a Tennessee Walker and a Missouri Fox Trotter.
"I'm excited (the Clydesdales) came," he said. "I think it's fantastic."
Jonathan Bell was less enthused. The Columbus, Ohio, native said he has seen the horses so many times at the Ohio State Fair, where they are regulars, that the massive geldings no longer excite him.
"It's an old hat for me" he said, sitting on a bench away from the crowds. But "they are a big deal for people who haven't seen them before," he added, clearly aware he was an outlier at the event.