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Budweiser Clydesdales pull into Lakewood Ranch to stir emotions

Clydesdales will make appearances in Lakewood Ranch, Sarasota before Atlanta Braves fan experience in North Port.

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Hey Bud, what are you thinking?

On Valentines Day evening, it was all about charity.

I had heard the Budweiser Clydesdales had made guest reservations at the Sarasota Polo Club in Lakewood Ranch, so I drove over to catch the caravan.

Jay Heater: Side of Ranch
Jay Heater: Side of Ranch

Not surprising, it was a big entrance. Three tractor trailers, 10 humongous horses, equipment, the wagon, seven workers to cater to the horses' needs, two Dalmatians and a whole lot of red paint.

Just before the Clydesdales hit town, the Sarasota Polo Club's Ron Trytek stood outside the stable area, waiting to make sure Clyde would be pampered, and who better? Trytek spent much of his life in the hotel industry making sure every guest was indulged. Ten-foot stacks of bedding towered outside each stall. I didn't see any hoofy slippers, but you can bet they were there.

As we waited, I started to think about Trytek being involved in a lot of charitable events. The previous Friday, he was in the middle of the Sisterhood for Good's Vegas Comes to Town event at the Meadows Country Club. If he can help you, he will be there. A nice asset to the community.

Trytek, of course, works for James and Misdee Miller, who own the Sarasota Polo Club. It would be more appropriate to say they "pay" for the Sarasota Polo Club because this is in no means a money-making endeavor. The Millers love the sport, as well as their community. They bought it in 2018 from Schroeder-Manatee Ranch because they didn't want to see it go away and perhaps become more houses.

Gold Coast Eagle Distributing's Hugh Shields and the Sarasota Polo Club's Ron Trytek, greet the Budweiser Clydesdales.
Gold Coast Eagle Distributing's Hugh Shields and the Sarasota Polo Club's Ron Trytek, greet the Budweiser Clydesdales.

Besides the overall charity involved with preserving an important piece of the community which provides character, the polo club grounds are often the site of charitable activities. Hosting the Clydesdales was a comp deal. Anything to help. It goes on and on.

I stood in front of the stables and chatted with Trytek, who had underestimated the cool evening air and was shivering in his short-sleeve shirt. All the while he was smiling, which is kind of his trademark, that salt-of-the-Earth smile. The caravan had called and said they were running a bit behind schedule and would be another 20 minutes. No matter. Trytek's smile remained. He was like a little kid waiting for the parade.

Meanwhile, a car drove up and out emerged Hugh Shields, the marketing administrator for Lakewood Ranch's Gold Coast Eagle Distributing, which is owned by John Saputo. Shields explained that Saputo had brought the Clydesdales, who are headquartered in St. Louis but were last visiting Houston, to the area so they could be part of the Atlanta Braves' fan experience, 1-3 p.m. Feb. 19 at CoolToday Park in North Port.

Saputo would not forget about Lakewood Ranch, so he made sure to add a stroll down Main Street at Lakewood Ranch on 6 p.m. Feb. 16 followed by Clydesdale appearances 6-8 p.m. Feb. 17 at University Town Center Mall and 6-8 p.m. Feb. 18 at Thunder by the Bay at the Sarasota Fairgrounds. Motorcycles and horses? These horses are used to commotion all around them.

The cynical view of all this would focus on the tremendous promotional power packed into a wagon and pulled by the magnificent Clydesdales. You can't argue that their world-wide appeal is based on their association with a beer company since 1933. When you see that wagon being pulled along, that cha-ching you hear is money piling up.

The Clydesdales have a busy schedule this week in the region.
The Clydesdales have a busy schedule this week in the region.

But when I get up close to the brutes, I could care less. For me, it's like watching the closing parade at Disneyland, without all the blinking lights.

I think about the money that piles up for this community. If you know Saputo, the colonel, you understand he never says no to the community. That involves giving out beer that nonprofits can sell at festivals or donating use of his meeting hall at Gold Coast Eagle. Sisterhood for Good uses that Gold Coast Eagle space, and is connected to Trytek who is connected to the Millers who are connected to Shields. Round and round those charity connections go.

Parked outside the stables, the Clydesdale stood in their luxury trucks as workers tried to figure out a problem. On the Clydesdales' last visit to the Polo Club, the workers had brought their own gates for the stalls. This time, they did not, and the polo club had left the stable doorways open to accommodate those expected gates. Whoops.

Darkness had fallen, and everyone worked together to solve the problem. An hour later, all the stalls had gates and the Clydesdales, along with the Dalmatians, were settled and ready for a good night's rest.

For me, it was just a fun evening, Trytek shivering, the thoughts of charity, seeing the Clydesdales in all their glory.

I drove away with a smile. It was Valentine's Day, and I had just experienced a few more reasons to love this community.

The Budweiser Clydesdales caravan makes its way onto the Sarasota Polo Club grounds.
The Budweiser Clydesdales caravan makes its way onto the Sarasota Polo Club grounds.



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