• 54°

Sunset Saddle Club to walk in the Albert Lea parade

The Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce and the Sunset Saddle Club have reached an agreement to allow the club to continue its participation in the annual Third of July Parade.

The issue was in question after two incidents last year involving three horses getting spooked either before or during the parade, said Rhonda Jordal, executive director of the chamber.

In the first incident, two horses tied on the side of a trailer got spooked and broke loose, running through the fairgrounds before the parade started as the units were lining up.

“There were kids, lots of people,” Jordal said. “Talk about the danger and think about what could have happened.”

The second incident took place during the parade when a different horse got spooked because of the street sweeper, which typically runs after the club at the end of the parade.

“We had to look at the safety of our community and of the people in the parade and the people watching,” she said.

Sunset Saddle Club President Heidi Morgan said to her knowledge that was the first time an incident like that had taken place since the club began participating in the parade. The club started in 1954 and is celebrating its 65th year.

Jordal said she sat down with Morgan and longtime club member and former president Gary Richter to discuss what had taken place.

She said the group talked about what they could do to ensure safety, not only for the spectators, but for everyone involved with the parade.

They came up with parade rules that the chamber will utilize not only with the Sunset Saddle Club but also if any other entrants with livestock want to be in the parade.

Jordal said horses that had any difficulty prior to the event will not be allowed to participate in the parade.

Horses will be with their owners at all times, and no animals will be tied to trailers and left to the side.

During the parade, there will be a truck and horse trailer leading before the horses and their riders. Walkers will be on the sides between the horses and the crowd. After the horses, there will be a clean-up crew and another truck and trailer.

The purpose of the truck and trailers is to have a place for a horse to go if it gets spooked during the parade, she said.

Notices will be posted at the entrances of the fairgrounds and along the parade route the day of the parade about the rules for livestock.

“I’m so glad we were able to sit down and talk and come to a collaboration that is hopefully for the good of everybody,” Jordal said.

Morgan echoed Jordal’s comments.

“Our main goal is to make it safe for everyone,” she said. “I’d feel real awful if one of my member’s horses hurt somebody.”

She said she expects at least five or six riders in the parade, and will be reaching out to current and former members of the club to join in.