The Merced County Sheriff’s Posse will travel across the country next month to be part of the presidential inauguration in Washington, D.C., Sheriff Vern Warnke announced Thursday in front of the Courthouse Museum.
While the group has been at three previous inaugurations, this will be the first for Warnke, who was elected in 2014. As far as he knows, Warnke said, the Merced County Sheriff’s Office is the only such department in the state to be invited this year.
“I feel honored having the opportunity to ride with this unit,” Warnke told the Sun-Star. “Out of 58 (California) counties, we’re the one representing the state.”
“You guys can tell I’m kind of giddy about it,” he said.
The posse will travel with 14 horses for the Jan. 20 ceremony and the Sheriff’s Office is asking for donations to help cover expenses, estimated to be a total of about $80,000. The group intends to go regardless of how much is raised, even if they have to pay out-of-pocket, Warnke said.
The group will include at least 20 people, staying in D.C. for four nights, he said.
A fundraising open house, with drinks and appetizers, will be held on Jan. 8 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Elks Lodge with an entrance fee of $25, Warnke said. They will auction off a U.S. flag that will be carried in the parade and then presented to the winning bidder.
A GoFundMe account can be found on the Sheriff’s Posse Facebook page, Warnke said, and donations can also be made at the Farmers and Merchants Bank in Hilmar.
“We will represent you and we will represent you well,” the sheriff said.
Laurette Locke, a member of the Sheriff’s Posse, said she is looking forward to riding her horse, Rosie, in the parade.
“I’m excited to ride by the viewing stand and seeing the president right there,” she said. “I wouldn’t want to ride anybody else’s horse. Me and her, we’re a team.”
Warnke said he had been thinking about applying to march in the parade even before the election, and would have applied regardless of the outcome.
“The person isn’t the reason we’re going,” Warnke said. “It’s to honor and represent the president.”
While applying, Warnke said, he sought help from Rep. Jim Costa, state Assemblyman Adam Gray and state Sen. Anthony Cannella.
Costa said it was an “honor and privilege” for Merced County to be chosen to represent California and be a part of the traditional ceremony that celebrates democracy every four years.
“We are truly honored and they deserve it,” Costa said. “I’m looking forward to having them march.”
Monica Velez: 209-385-2486