Color me Babe. That venerable blue ox, Paul Bunyan's buddy, is getting his own limelight in an effort organizers hope will benefit the arts, the community and area tourism. It's a lakes area take on public art similar to the Peanuts character statues in St. Paul.
To that end The Oxtrot, "an oxpedition of art in the lakes area," will display 30 or more Babe the perhaps not-so-blue ox statues throughout lakes area communities in 2008. The project involves sponsors and area artists and will serve as a fundraiser for arts in the community.
Organizers hope the Babes will attract both visitors and residents to Oxtrot locations throughout the lakes area between May and Labor Day. The Oxtrot will be officially unveiled at the governor's fishing opener hosted by Pequot Lakes and Breezy Point.
The Oxtrot, "an oxpedition of art in the lakes area," expects to display 30 or more ox statues throughout lakes area communities between May and Labor Day. Sponsors may paint their own Babes or use submitted designs through the Crossing Arts Alliance. Project organizer, Josh Porter, Avalon Studios, provided an example of color schemes for Babe, including watermelon, pumpkin and a golf ox complete with green grass, blue sky and a red flag on the golf course.
Project organizer Josh Porter, Avalon Studios, said artists' submissions are still needed.
"It's one of those things it just takes time to figure out," said Josh Porter, Avalon Studios, project organizer. "I'm finding a lot of people haven't heard about it yet. There is still an opportunity to get involved."
The Oxtrot is sponsored by the Crossing Arts Alliance in partnership with the Brainerd Lakes Chamber and Avalon Studios. The chamber reported this promotional campaign supporting the Oxtrot will be one of the largest single tourism focused efforts it has done in many years. And the project, first unveiled last summer, is gaining statewide attention.
"We applied for an innovative marketing grant to help support this project," said Lisa Paxton, chamber chief executive officer. "We were fortunate enough to be recognized."
Josh Porter sat atop one of his Babe statues at his Avalon Studios near Ossipee. Porter designed the statue and is event coordinator for the Oxtrot. Ox statues are 5 feet tall, 6.5 feet long and 2.5 feet wide. The statues will be mounted on a 3-foot by 6-foot concrete base while on display with a plaque to identify the sponsor, artist and statue's name. Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls» Purchase reprints of this photo.
The chamber received the competitive grant of $30,000 and will spend $75,000 on the Oxtrot promotions using the grant and other contributions. The "Finding Babe" campaign will use the radio, television, Internet and personal appearances to promote the Oxtrot. The campaign involves "Babe having a playful time around the lakes area, particularly at Oxtrot locations with Paul Bunyan on a search for him but always finding himself three steps behind," the chamber reported.
"We've hired an actor to represent Paul Bunyan and he will make appearances at metro events," Paxton said. And Babe will keep a blog of his adventures.
Oxtrot locations will be featured on the chamber's 2008 Brainerd lakes area map, which has 70,000 copies. People visiting all Oxtrot locations will be able to register for a lakes area getaway.
About the Oxtrot
Deadline for artist design submissions for Babe the Blue Ox statues is Feb. 15. Deadline for sponsors of the Babe statues is Feb. 22.
Babe statues may be placed in the area covered by the Brainerd Lakes Chamber map, which extends from the Hackensack area to Pillager, to Fort Ripley to Garrison and Aitkin.
For Oxtrot sponsorship details visit www.theoxtrot.com or contract Josh Porter (218) 851-7965 or firstname.lastname@example.org or Tina Laxen (218) 251-0480 or email@example.com.
For sponsors hosting an ox statue, the benefit is expected to come with increased visitors to the site and access to statewide marketing efforts. Sponsors throughout the area - Crosslake, Pine River, Brainerd and Pequot Lakes - are committed to the project. Some have their own ideas to paint Babe. For others, a renewed call is going out to area artists asking for design submissions sponsors may potentially pick from. There are about 10 sponsored statues with additional prospects coming in. Four sponsors were already looking for submitted designs.
The Brainerd Jaycees sponsored a Babe statue. Sarah Thompson, Brainerd Jaycees president, said raising money for arts appealed to the group. Attracting tourists and having a fun local event added to the idea, she said. The Brainerd Jaycees Babe will go to the Jaycees Park.
The Babe statues may take on whatever color scheme sponsors pick and then will be placed throughout the lakes area as an attraction from May through Labor Day.
The Babe sponsored by Hunt Utilities Group in Pine River will be placed just a few blocks from the business at the Pine River Chamber. Nolita Christensen, executive director of Happy Dancing Turtle on the Hunt Campus, said the idea supporting artists and being in a cooperative venture linking lakes area cities appealed to the business. Their Babe will feature a mosaic or mural of sustainable living with wind energy, solar panels, farm land, blue sky and honey bees.
Porter said the project has the potential to continue next year.
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