It’s common to see cows roaming the fields of San Luis Obispo. However, Sept. 17 brought a herd of a different kind to the Central Coast. Across the lawn at Madonna Inn, CowParade SLO made its debut with colorfully painted and creatively constructed cow statues designed by local artists. The cows were sponsored by many local companies, charities and schools.
CowParade started in Chicago in 1999 and has grown to reach 79 major cities worldwide. CowParade SLO was introduced by agricultural business and dairy science alumnus Alan Vander Horst after attending the initial event in Chicago seven years ago.
“I could just see what the finished puzzle would look like,” Horst said about planning the event for San Luis Obispo county.
Horst, the event’s coordinator, brought together artists from across San Luis Obispo county to decorate or sculpt 101 cows. This number has made CowParade SLO the county’s largest public art display.
Man One, a professional graffiti artist, and 11-year-old Dylan Ehmke spray painted their own cows side by side at the event for onlookers to watch.
Many artists displayed themed work, like Melissa Beveridge who wanted to encourage education with her cow. Her work at San Luis Obispo’s Animal Care Clinic and as a science illustrator gave her the inspiration for her cow, “Udderly Exposed,” which detailed the animal’s anatomy.
“I wanted people to be able to learn from the cow,” Beveridge said. “I’m a visual learner. People like me can learn by looking at this cow.”
Another educational cow was designed by San Luis Obispo resident Cindy Burnside. Burnside’s cow was inspired by the book “Molly, By Golly!”
“I wanted to bring an awareness about the first female firefighter, Molly Williams,” Burnside said.
The herd will be making its way across San Luis Obispo county in the next several months, with each cow being displayed at various public locations. According to the CowParade SLO website, there will soon be an interactive map showing the stops for the traveling show.
At the end of the parade in May 2017, the cows will be auctioned off at a gala where proceeds will benefit The Land Conservancy of San Luis Obispo county, ARTS Obispo, California Mid State Fair Heritage Foundation and selected sponsor charities.
To learn more about the art installation, find your favorite cow creation or get involved yourself, visit cowparadeslo.com.