Cows on parade

Fort Atkinson project pays tribute to city’s rich dairy history

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FORT ATKINSON, Wis. — Seven cows are dressing up the streets of Fort Atkinson in black, white, red, brown, gray and fawn. Showcasing the major dairy breeds — Holstein, Red and White Holstein, Guernsey, Jersey, Ayrshire, Milking Shorthorn and Brown Swiss — the statues are strategically located throughout the town.

The cows commemorate Fort Atkinson’s unique dairy history that stands strong today. The city is home to the National Dairy Shrine Museum and W.D. Hoard and Sons Company, publisher of Hoard’s Dairyman and manager of the longest continually registered Guernsey herd in the U.S. 

The Fort Atkinson Cow Parade was spearheaded by the Fort Atkinson Beautification Council. Alan Cook, retired dairy farmer and vice president of the council, chaired the project. 

“We needed something to distinguish the town,” Cook said. “My daughter lives west of the city and said that when driving into Fort Atkinson from that direction, there was nothing to identify what town it was.” 

What started as an idea for a Holstein statue on that side of town turned into the council wanting statues of all seven breeds. Nearly life-size, the painted models are replicas of famous dairy cows from the Fort Atkinson area.

“We had to set out to get local cows for each breed,” Cook said. “It was pretty fun. Each cow had a story.”

The statues were made by FAST Fiberglass in Sparta. Local agricultural artist, Larry Schultz, painted each cow by hand. 

Cook admires Schultz’s work. 

“I love how the face and eyes make these statues come to life,” Cook said.

The Holstein was made in the likeness of Gene Acres Felicia May Fury from Crescent Beauty Farm — the former farm of Allen Hetts, one of the founders of World Dairy Expo. He purchased her as a 3-year-old cow, and his family groomed her into maybe the greatest cow of her day, Cook said. Felicia May was scored EX-97 and was named supreme champion of World Dairy Expo in 1974. In addition, she was an All-American or reserve All-American winner six times. She lived to be 18 years old.

“When owners see these cows come back to life, they get emotional,” Cook said.

 Allen’s son, Roy, was teary-eyed when he saw Felicia May’s statue. He tapped her on the nose but could not say anything, Cook said.

“This means a lot to our family because Felicia May was such a valuable part of our farm,” Roy said. “It’s wonderful. She was by far the greatest animal we ever had. She brought a lot of blessings.” 

 Placed on the mezzanine in front of Subway on Madison Avenue, Felicia May’s statue is located within 30 feet of her burial spot. 

Honoring the Red and White Holstein is Silver-Rock TT Barbara from the farm of Scott and Deb Lundy. Scored EX-93, she was grand champion of the national Red and White show in 1987 and the first winner of the Reb Albrecht Memorial Award.  

Deb said when she looked in that statue’s eyes, she could see Barbara.

“I had this choked-up feeling,” Deb said. “It was kind of cool. Barbara was one of our favorite cows and was one of the first cows we showed that did so well. Members of her family have gone on and done well too. It’s kind of neat that all the cows are from this area.”

Hillside View Darling is the cow the Ayrshire was modeled after. Darling was purchased by Paul and Iva Hebbe as a heifer at the 1976 Grand National Ayrshire Sale in Portland, Oregon, and was the highest-selling animal at the sale. 

The Brown Swiss portrays Top Acres Present-ET of Sunshine Genetics. She achieved the maximum breed score, at the time, of 94 points and became the first cow in the breed to score 96 in the mammary. She produced 57 daughters and sons, impacting the Brown Swiss breed worldwide. 

The Milking Shorthorn is Weg Acres Major’s Faith from Willard and Sylvia Gerner’s farm. Faith was named the Wisconsin Cow of the Year in 1983 and was the first of her breed to be super ovulated, Cook said.

Rolling Prairie Bella Blue represents the Guernsey breed. Combining great production with outstanding type, Blue was purchased by Hoard’s Dairyman Farm. She was classified EX-95, the maximum score of the Guernsey breed. Unveiled Oct. 14, she was the first statue to claim her spot in town, which is outside of Hoard’s Dairyman. 

“The Hoard’s cow looks so perfect there,” Cook said. “It looks like she was always missing from that spot.”

The Jersey is the only one of the seven cows that is still alive. Brandenburg Verbatum Kuna Moon-ET resides at Jim and Peggy Brandenburg’s farm. Kuna Moon was supreme champion at six shows in 2019 and has provided many offspring for the Brandenburgs to build their Jersey herd.

“It’s something special to have a cow that is represented in the community,” Jim said. “This is a great thing for the city of Fort Atkinson. It adds to the community, and a lot of people enjoy it. I really like the fact they researched the animals and all are from the Fort Atkinson area.”  

After they were painted, each statue was weather-proofed and received two applications of automotive clear coat. Businesses and individuals could sponsor a cow, each of which had a price tag of $5,000. 

All cows were placed by Nov. 5, and Cook said the next thing to do is add lighting by each statue. In addition, a sign next to every cow will include her breed name and a QR code to scan for more information. On permanent display, the 125-pound cows stand on top of heavy-duty slabs but are portable if they should ever need to be moved.

The cows’ presence in town has caught the eyes of many. The pieces of art are a recognizable feature in a town known for its dairy heritage.

“The cows have created a buzz,” Cook said. “People are talking about it.”

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