Phil Eckard can think of few nicer things to be remembered for than that he was the man who brought the Clydesdales to Carroll County.
"I hope that I will accomplish more good deeds in my life," said the 32-year-old lifelong resident of Westminster, "but this has been the most exciting so far."
Wednesday's overwhelmingly successful visit to the Carroll County Farm Museum by the hitch of eight Clydesdale horses is a testament to vision, dreams, hard work, cooperation and perseverance on the part of Mr. Eckard, sales manager of The Bees Beverage Distributors in Finksburg, and Dottie Freeman, the museum's administrative marketing specialist.
It also is a story that might make you believe in extra-sensory perception.
"My requests for the hitch to make an appearance in Carroll County had been rejected a few times a year for at least seven years," Eckard recounted, "but I kept trying. When the acceptance letter arrived less than two months ago, I couldn't believe it. Everyone in my office wanted to see the letter. They thought I was joking when I said we were finally getting the hitch to come."
Despite his initial disbelief, Eckard had the wholehearted -- and open-pocketed -- support of his boss, Rick Broderick, and the rest of the staff at The Bees. He also had the wholehearted support of Freeman at the Farm Museum.
"I saw the Clydesdales a year or so ago at the York Fair," Ms. Freeman explained, "and I was immediately taken with them. Everyone around them was just in awe of these big, beautiful creatures. I knew then that I had
to get them for the Farm Museum."
She had dreamed and talked about the Clydesdales to her family and colleagues to the point that the "Gentle Giants" became almost a standing joke around the museum offices.
"When I picked up the phone about a month ago and there was a man on the other end who started talking about bringing the Clydesdales here, I was sure he had been put up to it by someone in the office," Ms. Freeman remembered with a laugh. "I really couldn't take Phil seriously at first."
Mr. Eckard finally convinced Ms. Freeman that it wasn't a joke and that the Clydesdales could be hers if she wanted them. Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, Ms. Freeman accepted.
After that, it was a matter of coordinating the hitch, which is headquartered in New Hampshire but managed out of St. Louis, the Farm Museum, and Mr. Eckard's operation.
All the perseverance and hard work paid off when the hitch rolled into the Farm Museum on Wednesday. At least 5,000 people warmly greeted the big horses, their Dalmatian mascot and their human traveling companions.
"We wanted to give the hitch as good a performance as they gave us," Ms. Freeman said. "We wanted to generate a good crowd and give them a good showplace. We were so proud that they were coming."
4( Everything went off without a hitch.