HANNIBAL, Mo. -- Hannibal's year-long 200th birthday celebration will shift into high gear Saturday when the city hosts a festive Bicentennial Parade in the downtown area starting at 11 a.m.
Floats and other decorated vehicles will be competing for prizes, including an award honoring the "best overall bicentennial-themed entry."
A special attraction in the parade will be the Budweiser Clydesdales -- an eight-horse hitch of 2,000-pound animals pulling the Anheuser-Busch company's red beer wagon.
Gail Bryant, director of the Hannibal Convention and Visitors Bureau and chairman of the city's Bicentennial Committee, said she's excited to have the Clydesdales coming to town.
"They are highly requested, and they are so majestic," she said. "To have them come to Hannibal during our bicentennial year is just amazing."
The Clydesdales are being brought to America's Hometown largely through the efforts of Golden Eagle Distributing. "They were instrumental in having them come," Bryant said, crediting the efforts of Golden Eagle's Michael Riesenbeck.
The Clydesdales will be harnessed and hitched from 9:30 to 11 a.m. Saturday at the Save-A-Lot parking lot at 1222 Broadway, which serves as the starting point for the parade.
The parade will go east on Broadway, north on Third Street, east on North Street and then south on Main Street to Lyon.
"It will go all the way down past the B&B Theater," Bryant said.
That area -- in the vicinity of Tanyard Gardens -- was selected as the parade's end point because of the Clydesdales, which travel in three large semi trucks.
"To load them up, they need the space," Bryant said.
The Clydesdales will be making several other appearances in Hannibal this week. According to Bryant, one or two horses will be on display from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday along Hill Street during the Music Under the Stars concert near the Mark Twain boyhood home and from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday at the Down by the River event. Clydesdales also will make an appearance at County Market from 2 to 4 p.m. Thursday.
Bryant said the Bicentennial Parade was scheduled specifically for this Saturday to accommodate the Clydesdales, which were not able to come to town on the Fourth of July weekend, as hoped, for the annual National Tom Sawyer Days Parade. So Hannibal decided to have two parades this year.
"What's exciting is a lot of people can be in the Bicentennial Parade and then, two weeks later, be in the National Tom Sawyer Days Parade," Bryant said.
She said the city has received an "amazing response" to the Bicentennial Parade. Anyone interested in participating can still sign up through two websites: visithannibal.com or hannibal2019.com.
Two other bicentennial-related events also will be taking place on Saturday. One is the fourth annual cardboard boat races scheduled for 8 to 11 a.m. at the Hannibal Aquatic Center, sponsored by the Hannibal Parks and Recreation Department.
Later in the day Saturday, a hot-air balloon festival will be held on the campus of Hannibal-LaGrange University. According to Bryant, the event begins at 5:30 with setup, then vendors will start selling wares at 6 p.m. As many as 20 balloons will start launching at 6:30.
A tethered balloon will remain available on campus to give rides until the rest of the balloonists return to participate in a balloon "glow" at 8:30 p.m.
Bryant the many of the balloonists also will take part in a Sunday morning flight starting at 6:30 a.m.
"We have some great bicentennial events happening this year," she said.