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Clara City native leads Clydesdale team on visit to area

CLARA CITY -- There was only one place in the world that Pete Petersen could learn the skills he needed for his job. It was on his parents' farm alongside Minnesota Highway 40, which is located far enough west of Willmar -- 20 miles -- that peopl...

CLARA CITY -- There was only one place in the world that Pete Petersen could learn the skills he needed for his job.

It was on his parents' farm alongside Minnesota Highway 40, which is located far enough west of Willmar -- 20 miles -- that people in the Twin Cites consider him to have grown up on the very edge of the world.

Now, he's at the center of the world no matter where he goes.

Petersen, a 1982 graduate of the Clara City High School, is a driver for one of the Budweiser Clydesdale teams that represent the St. Louis brewery at events all over the United States.

"We see millions of people every year,'' said Petersen, now living in San Antonio, Texas, with his wife.

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When the three-semitrailer caravan that hauls the famous horses is on the road, Petersen can look out and see people in cars pointing cameras at them. Stop at a truckstop, and Petersen said a caravan of the curious will follow for the chance to watch his eight-man crew open the trailer doors for the mammoth horses.

Take a hold of the reins and trot that same team of horses down Lakeshore Drive in Chicago, or the parade route of any major city, and hundreds of thousands of people will be cheering and watching.

"People are just attracted to them,'' said Petersen.

This week will be the best of all for Petersen when the Budweiser Clydesdales will make several local appearances. He will be seeing lots of familiar faces amongst the crowds, including those of his parents, Alfred and Betty Petersen of Clara City.

Petersen and his crew showed the famous horse team Wednesday evening at Prairie's Edge Casino Resort near Granite Falls. This evening and Friday they appear in Montevideo, before heading to Spicer on Saturday and on to Madison on Sunday. (See related story.)

It's the first time in his nearly 14-year career with Anheuser-Busch and the Budweiser Clydesdales that Petersen has brought the team within 50 miles of his home.

He's been nearly everywhere else: The team is on the road more than 300 days of the year.

His favorite appearances were visits to Cuba, N.Y., a tiny upstate community of 1,200, and Wilbur, Neb., a small town of Czechoslovakian heritage.

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There is nothing that beats the excitement, appreciation and hospitality shown by audiences in small, rural communities, said Petersen.

He also enjoys taking the horses to nursing homes, where he can see a special spark in the eyes of older residents. "That's a generation that remembers the workhorse,'' he said.

Petersen learned all about the workhorse on his parents' farm. His father enjoyed horses and kept a small team for the pleasure of it. He learned from his father how to take charge of a team and put horses to work raking hay or dragging a field.

Petersen attended South Dakota State University, Brookings, for two years. Then during a trip to Florida with friends, he applied for a job at Disneyworld.

The equestrian skills he learned on the farm -- and his Midwestern work ethic -- got him a job with Disneyworld's team of horses. He rose through the ranks to be a team driver.

Five years later, he moved up to a job with Anheuser-Busch went on to become a team driver and supervisor.

Petersen said he can't imagine a job he could enjoy more

Being in the spotlight isn't always easy, but Petersen said he knows how to get away from it too.

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Every fall, Petersen said he likes to take a vacation and return home to the family farm on the western edge of Minnesota to help his uncle and cousin with their harvest. "It's a way to get back to reality,'' he said with a smile.

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