CHICAGO -- This city has come up with an a-moo-sing way to promote
itself to visitors, and it's no bull.
Starting this month and running through Oct. 31, a "herd" of
more than 300 decorated, life-size, fiberglass cows will "graze"
along the sidewalks of Michigan Avenue, River North, State Street,
the lakefront Museum Campus, O'Hare Airport and other locations.
Branded "Cows on Parade," the exhibit is designed to boost tourism
while promoting the talents of Chicago's creative community.
The promotion was first mounted last summer in Zurich,
Switzerland, where a display of 800 cows was credited with
increasing tourism by nearly 1 million visitors. After seeing the
Zurich exhibit while vacationing in Europe, Chicago businessman
Peter Hanig of Hanig's Footwear approached Chicago Cultural Affairs
commissioner Lois Weisberg with the idea of re-creating it in
Driven by the idea, the city signed a contract with Zurich,
which shipped a short order of the artificial bovines to Chicago.
The city sold paint-it-yourself cows to businesses and individuals
for $2,500 apiece or for up to $11,000 for a cow painted by a local
artist commissioned by the city.
The tagged, named, painted, bejeweled, dressed-up, dissected and
carved cows, which weigh about 40 pounds, will be secured to
concrete bases and scattered throughout the city.
Creativity was encouraged. For example, artist Nancy Albrecht's
"Chi-Cow-Go" sports the city's skyline on its body and the four red
stars and two blue stripes of the city's flag on its face.
The entrance to the Talbott Hotel will be home to artist Brian
Calvin's "Cowccinella Novemnotata," which resembles a giant
ladybug. "Depending on the moment, the sculpture can be perceived
as a life-size cow or a gargantuan insect, a cow-becoming-a-ladybug
or simply a particularly dandyish bovine," Calvin said.
Three cows will commemorate Mary O'Leary's much-maligned Daisy,
the cow long held responsible for the Oct. 8, 1871, fire that
The city is planning to milk the event for all it's worth. The
city's Downtown Thursday Night program will include scavenger hunts
for cows on 20 consecutive Thursday nights beginning June 17, while
the State Street Bridge Gallery will become a "moo-seum" beginning
A number of privately sponsored events will herald the cows
throughout the promotion. Maps with the cows' locations will be
available at hotels, the Water Tower Visitors Center, the Chicago
Cultural Center and other locations.
"Cows on Parade" is expected to infuse approximately $300,000
into the city's arts community, making it one of the most important
public art exhibitions ever mounted by the city. "Not only are
these artists receiving important commissions, but their work will
be viewed by millions of people," said Weisberg, the cultural
At the end of the exhibition, the cows can be donated to be sold
at a "cattle auction" reminiscent of those held for many decades at
the former Chicago Stockyards, with the proceeds going to the
owner's charity of choice. Owners who can't bear to part with their
cows can take them home as pets.