Diane Winters, who owns six horses herself, is in her 25th year of organizing what is billed as the largest all-horse, non-motorized vehicle parade east of the Mississippi River.
"We are the kickoff event for the Delaware County Fair, which starts the following week," Winters said. "The horse parade naturally is to promote horses and promote the fair, and promote youth and our community."
The Delaware All-Horse Parade will begin at 3 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 12. It's sponsored by local Hiram Masonic Lodge No. 18.
For its entire existence, the parade has been run entirely by volunteers, with largely the same core membership of four or so regular volunteers, a number that will balloon to more than 50 the day of the parade.
Twenty-five years ago, the parade featured 50 horses and took about 30 minutes. This year will be one of the largest ever and will take at least 90 minutes, Winters said. The route will start at the fairgrounds and head east on Pennsylvania Avenue, south on Sandusky Street, west on Winter Street, north on Liberty Street, west on Lincoln Avenue and north on Euclid Street to end at the fairgrounds.
"If you're not hearing music from the band, you're hearing clippety-clop, clippety-clop from the horses," Winters said. "We do have scoopers, Sigma Chi from Ohio Wesleyan University are the official scoopers. We provide the shovels, and they're before every marching band. And some people will draw bingo squares on the pavement and play horse-drop bingo."
About one-third of the entrants are local to Delaware, Winters said, with the rest coming from around Ohio and states as far away as Florida.
"Some of the riders who have moved away come back to participate in the parade," she said. "We've had them from Pennsylvania, Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, Georgia, also Florida. People might borrow a horse or trailer their own in."
Winters has been hoping for the Budweiser Clydesdales to participate this year. The team has attended only one other Horse Parade, the 16th event, but Winters hopes they'll show up for the anniversary.
"We hope they'll come in," she said. "They get so many requests they can't accommodate them all. They used to have six traveling teams, now they are down to three."
The committee is making special effort this year, increasing its customary budget to draw more participants with special antique carriages.
"We have antique coaches coming in, doctor's buggies, wagons," Winters said. "Howard Goodyear from northern Ohio brings in a Conestoga wagon, from a period of historic growth in our country."
Winters said the Hiram Masonic Lodge sponsors the parade each year with a donation that goes toward paying some special exhibitors and expenses such as T-shirts for the pooper scoopers.
"We rate very well with other horse parades around the country that have budgets of $100,000 up to $1-million," Winters said. "We're very grateful to the Hiram Masonic Lodge, which provides us with $10,000 donation, sometimes as high as $12,000.
"It goes toward some vehicles we have to pay for. With an eight-horse team, it's expensive to haul and pay for employees and such. And advertising is very expensive. The bands, we pay for their buses to come in."