Ripley is patriotic. Mayor Carolyn Rader wouldn’t have it any other way.

In fact, Rader and other citizens spend lots of time working on ways to celebrate the small town’s American roots—and why it’s important to honor this heritage.

And nearly three years after they first started trying, the Budweiser Clydesdales are coming to town.

The well-known horses will be part of Friday’s Veterans Day Parade, an annual event that has grown so much that nearly 500 local veterans will be honored this year.

Since its inception six years ago, the parade has honored veterans from various wars. This year will pay special homage to former prisoners of war and also those still missing in action.

West Virginia native and former Gulf War POW Jessica Lynch will be guest speaker at a ceremony on the courthouse lawn that’s expected to draw 300-400 people following the parade.

Gen. James Hoyer, the adjutant general of the West Virginia National Guard, will be riding on the wagon drawn by a team of eight Clydesdales. They are part of the Eastern fleet based in New Hampshire and will be the parade’s finale.

It was no easy feat getting the horses.

The town had originally requested the horses for their July 4th celebration. That celebration is also special, because “Ripley is home of America’s largest small town American Independence Day celebration,” she said.

But since that never worked out, Rader acted on a local citizen’s suggestion to see if Veteran’s Day was a possibility.

Just making the request included filing paperwork (a 20-question form) that asked about everything from the availability of a local dry cleaner and feed store to proper stable/barn facilities for housing the horses.

The proximity of the Jackson County Fair Grounds, and its new horse barn, was a big help. The mayor’s persistence paid off in a big way.

The Clydesdales have been in town since Monday and lots of local folks have already taken advantage of seeing them up close and in person.

“The team had been at the World Series and were on their way home, so Ripley was a perfect spot for them to stop instead of just heading on back to New England,” she said.

She said the horses will be in town through Sunday, when two of them will be at the courthouse lawn “so that people can come out to pet them and even get their picture taken with a Clydesdale.”

In addition to the parade, the public can also see them Saturday from 9 a.m. until noon.

“The Good Lord has blessed us with a wonderful forecast for the parade, and we have had folks calling from other states including Ohio, Kentucky and Pennsylvania because they want to be a part of this,” she said.

Youngsters are also an important part of recognizing local veterans, and Rader was visiting local middle school students Thursday afternoon to talk with them about the holiday as well as how they can help at the parade.

“As I was sitting here looking out the window, it occurred to me what I wanted to tell the children – that it isn’t the wind that keeps our flag flying, it is brave veterans who gave their life to do just that,” she said.

“I want to encourage them to all take time to thank a veteran, but if they don’t know one it’s important they be the kind of person a veteran died fighting for.”

More: 17 Photos of Welch’s Veterans Day Parade, The Oldest in the World

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