Sunday, June 25 , 2017, 7:25 pm | Fair 69º

 
 
 
 

Ray Ford: San Luis Obispo’s Cows on Parade Are Public Art at its Cutest

CowParade SLO plans charitable auction Saturday for some of its unique livestock, which are made of fiberglass and painted

Cal Poly students pose with their two creations, Gladys the Town Cow and Thumbelina Cow. Click to view larger
Cal Poly students pose with their two creations, Gladys the Town Cow and Thumbelina Cow.  (Ray Ford photo)

Yvonne and I have been seeing some pretty weird cows lately. They come in all colors and shapes and patterns. We found them grazing the streets of San Luis Obispo, quietly munching on the grass in the back hills of Cambria and near the glass blowing shop in the small town of Harmony.

They’ve even got some strange names: Cow-cu-lations, Camo Cow, Mini Moo, Udderly Blessed, Mary Belle Pepper, and Lady Moodana, among others.

Intrigued by one in particular not too far from where we were staying in San Luis Obispo, named Mary Belle Pepper, we noticed a small sign near her front hooves noting that she was Cow No. 97 and was one of many created for what was called CowParade SLO.

It turns out that CowParade is not only an outdoor museum of sorts for various parts of the county, but is a world-renowned public art event during which sponsored artists create and paint life-sized statues of cows in all sorts of poses.

The cows are displayed in a variety of outdoor settings for several months and then auctioned off to support nonprofit organizations in the area such as the Land Conservancy for SLO, ARTS Obispo and the CA Mid-State Fair Heritage Foundation.

Thus far, CowParade SLO sponsors estimate more than 200,000 people have seen their cows.

The sculptures are made out of flame-resistant fiberglass, with steel rebar skeletons for reinforcement.

They weigh about 125 pounds each and come in two basic styles: standing or grazing. Because some of them may get damaged in the months out in the fields, there is even a CowHospital staffed by the event organizers to make repairs should the cows be injured.

Mary Belle Pepper, painted by Shirley Hazlett, is located near the Sands Inn on upper Monterey Street in San Luis Obispo. Click to view larger
Mary Belle Pepper, painted by Shirley Hazlett, is located near the Sands Inn on upper Monterey Street in San Luis Obispo. (Ray Ford photo)

The SLO cows have been out in the field since September 2016 but they will heading out to pasture soon.

This Saturday, 25 of the colorful cows and some “mini moos” will be auctioned off at the Santa Margarita Ranch to benefit the charities mentioned above.

But don’t despair, many of the cows have already been pre-purchased by their sponsors, who plan on keeping them on permanent display.

For more information about how you may bid on one of the cows go to the CowParade SLO auction site or go to the CowParade List for the locations of the cows throughout San Luis Obispo County.

Noozhawk outdoors writer Ray Ford has been hiking, backpacking and bicycling in the Santa Barbara area since the 1970s. He is a longtime local outdoors columnist, author and photographer. Click here for additional columns, or view his previous work at his website, Santa Barbara Outdoors. E-mail him at rford@noozhawk.com, and follow him on Twitter: @riveray. The opinions expressed are his own.

Cow-cu-lations, painted by members of the Paso Robles Art Association, is located just outside Cambria along the Santa Rosa Creek Road. Click to view larger
Cow-cu-lations, painted by members of the Paso Robles Art Association, is located just outside Cambria along the Santa Rosa Creek Road. (Ray Ford photo)
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