By Patrick Winderl/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
Local parks, streets and businesses could soon be graced with the presence of a unique tourist attraction.
Community leaders plan to bring a dozen life-size fiberglass horses to Havre so local artists can decorate them. The horses will be sponsored by Havre businesses and put on display.
Havre Mayor Bob Rice, Havre Area Chamber of Commerce executive director Debbie Vandeberg and Havre Daily News Publisher Harvey Brock are working to bring the horses to Havre in time for Festival Days in September.
Each horse will be decorated by one area artist, who will be encouraged to be as creative as possible.
"Bringing the horses to Havre will promote the work of talented local artists, and give visitors another worthwhile local attraction," Brock said.
Cities that have done similar projects have found the displays have increased tourism and a sense of local pride, he added.
Whitefish and Lewistown have already completed similar projects with great success, Brock said. Whitefish decorated the city with an assortment of moose and bears, and Lewistown opted for giant fish.
Brock said he has seen some very creative horses, including one painted to look a zebra, one outfitted with antlers and another with an elongated neck that looked like a giraffe. Tucson decorated a horse like an Airstream trailer, painting it silver and installing a window. A "pinto" horse in Billings was covered with thousands of pinto beans.
Rice said he was excited when Brock approached him looking for support for the project.
"I think it's a great idea," Rice said. "Hopefully it will bring some interest into the downtown area. Anything we can do to improve downtown is going to be positive."
Rice said he saw the displays in Whitefish and was impressed with the interest they generated.
"Of course Whitefish has a larger tourist crowd than we do, but I think eventually people will realize what we have here in Havre," he said.
The prospect of bringing horses to Havre is doubly appropriate because of Havre High School's Blue Pony mascot, Rice said.
Rice, Brock and Vandeberg are approaching the most difficult part of the process - raising money.
"We're hoping members of the community, clubs, organizations and businesses will pony up and form partnerships to make this happen," Brock said.
The goal is to get local businesses and individuals to contribute a total of $21,600. Each horse costs about $1,800 to purchase, ship and decorate, Brock said.
People interested in contributing to the project can choose a level of sponsorship. Brock said he hopes at least one person or business will become a platinum sponsor by donating $5,400 to cover the cost of three horses.
Other levels of sponsorship are gold ($1,800), silver ($900), bronze ($450), and partner ($150).
Each horse will be adorned with a plaque that names the sponsors and the artist who decorated the horse.
The Havre Art Association has a number of artists interested in decorating the statues, Brock said. Anyone can volunteer to decorate a horse, although sponsors are welcome to choose an artist.
Organizers hope to raise enough money for the 12 horses by May 5 so that artists will have the summer to decorate the horses. They will be unveiled during a Festival Days ceremony that will include a mock horse race to raise money for youth programs in the community.
People who want to contribute need to contact Brock as soon as possible. He can be reached at 265-6795 or at email@example.com.
Checks should be made out to the Havre Area Chamber of Commerce at 518 First St., Havre MT 59501.
Those interested in seeing pictures of ponies in other communities can log on to http://www.poniesdelpueblo.org/ourponies.htm.