Utah Bison

Bison sculpture outside the Utah State Capitol.

Leading up to the 2002 Winter Olympics, northern Utah officials had a novel marketing campaign for the region. They would produce a herd of life-sized, artistically rendered bison sculptures to place throughout the communities in various high traffic areas.

Northern Utah is home to the largest managed herd of bison in the U.S., located on Antelope Island in the middle of Great Salt Lake. Every fall the roundup of the 500-plus herd is a sight to see and officials hoped connecting this traditional event with the Olympics in a trendy way would help promote tourism.

The idea was so fashionable that the entire state adopted it as a lead-up to the Olympics. Almost 20 years later, many bison are still fixtures outside public buildings.

The bison statues themselves are fiberglass constructs that start out like other canvas — white. The artist then adds color and creativity to the burly animal.

Sponsors purchased the bison and then turned them over to artists or schools to be decorated. Some had themes related to the Olympics, but others had unrelated messages, even promotions for a company sponsor or industry. My newspaper in Ogden bought one and then had a class decorate it using papier-mache pages from the paper.

The artists or students fixed each one up in a different way. Some sported wings, skis or even hats. They were placed on street corners and in malls for the Olympics, but later moved or auctioned off for charity. Some people bought them for their yards.

Similar such projects have been done in other communities utilizing sculptures like cows, ponies, elk and even lizards.

Last week Casa Grande unveiled a marketing campaign that consists of a new logo spelling out the city’s name with bright neon-colored letters. It includes a refreshed visitors website with a “passport” listing various local attractions, parks and businesses that tourists can visit.

The campaign also includes suggestions to paint the curbs different colors to match the logo and paint the large monument signs that stand at the city’s main entranceways with the same colors.

But the campaign lacks a mascot.

What if Casa Grande located some creature structure at a lot of these locations that people might actually be interested in seeing.

Like the Utah campaign, sponsors could purchase and donate a fiberglass animal that could then be decorated by artists or students using neon colors.

But the big question is what would be a good mascot for the city?

We could choose a cougar, but that is already a high school mascot. Other desert animals found in the area could be selected like a bighorn sheep, or javelina, or even a tortoise.

But one of those animals would be a safe choice.

I would suggest we go out on a limb and pick, say, a scorpion. That is probably one of the most recognizable creatures we have. The sculptures could become a unique novelty item for Casa Grande. Who wouldn’t want to stop and see all the neon-colored giant scorpions around town?

The idea might not go over well with some traditionalists, but they could warm up to the idea. And if people are worried about the scorpions being vandalized or tagged, we could always put them under glass. That’s where I keep mine on my desk.


You can reach Andy Howell at ahowell@pinalcentral.com.