Cattle drive sculpture planned for Flagler Park

OKEECHOBEE — At their Nov. 27 meeting, Bridgette Waldau, Main Street’s Arts and Culture Alliance Director, asked the Okeechobee City Council for permission to begin working toward the placement of a cattle drive art project in Flagler Park #5. According to Ms. Waldau, the project was inspired by her visit to the Brownwood Villages near Leesburg, where she saw a similar installation.

The project will include nine bronze sculptures — a horse with a rider, a calf, a dog and six head of cattle. The project will take about two years to complete, which will coincide with the upcoming 500-year anniversary of the first cattle coming to Florida. The sculptor who will be creating this project is J. Michael Wilson, a celebrated sculptor who created the project at the Villages.

This sculpture, located at Brownwood Villages, is similar to the one planned for Flagler park. Special to the Lake Okeechobee News/Andrew Tomlin.

The initial plan is to have the cattle drive meandering on the grass from corner to corner alongside the sidewalk with native plants added for an authentic setting. Visitors will be able to walk along the sidewalks and feel like they are in the middle of the cattle drive. This path will also be easily viewable from State Road 70, which was also the path of the historic cattle drives.

The project will be paid for through fundraising, and Ms. Waldau said the Arts & Culture Alliance committee has approached several local leaders in the cattle industry, received strong support of the project. She said they now feel confident to move forward. The local ranches will be able to tell their stories on plaques which they can purchase through donations. They can also put their brands on the cattle.

Councilwoman Monica Clark expressed concern over fundraising methods and said she wanted to be sure the sculptures represented the whole community and not just the few big ranches who could afford to brand the sculptures.

Mayor Dowling Watford asked if they were sure they could raise the money because it seemed to be a very costly endeavor. Ms. Waldau replied she was very confident. She estimates the cost at about $400,000 plus possibly a little more for landscaping.

Councilman Gary Ritter said he thinks it is a wonderful idea because ranching is our heritage, and everyone passing on State Road 70 would see it. He said so many people don’t understand agriculture, and this is a great way to display it in our community.
The project was approved unanimously.

Special to the Lake Okeechobee News/Andrew Tomlin.

Cathy Womble is a staff writer for the Lake Okeechobee News.

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