RALEIGH — The crazy-colored herd of cow-shaped art has finished its four-month graze on Triangle sidewalks, returning the streets to a dull gray norm.
Crews pried them up with crowbars, hoisted them onto forklifts and loaded them onto flatbed trucks Sunday, hauling the collection of bovine statues off into the morning fog.
Homeless men stared as the beasts rolled down an otherwise empty Fayetteville Street packed eight to a flatbed, wondering at their Elizabethan collars, their jewel-encrusted udders and their purple horns a motley stampede.
But now the spectacle turns to philanthropy.
After a good washing, all 75 cows will be auctioned off to cow lovers across the Triangle on Feb. 2 a boon that should bring a six-figure donation to N.C. Childrens Hospital in Chapel Hill.
Weve got 11 trucks, all of them 24 to 32 feet, said Mike Siderio with KBR Building Group, fetching a rainbow-colored sculpture on South Street. Weve got 75 cows to get. Hopefully, we can have it all done by 2.
The Cow Parade idea started in Switzerland in 1998 and has turned up in more than 50 cities since, raising an estimated $30 million for nonprofits worldwide. The Triangles version drew thousands of viewers to see the cows hand-painted by local artists, said Crystal Miller, director of CowParadeNC and head of fundraising for N.C. Childrens Hospital.
Weighing about 100 pounds apiece, not counting their concrete bases, the Triangles fiberglass cows featured wings, goggles, parachutes, bow ties, crutches and eccentric nicknames: Sir Walter Cowleigh and Cowpernicus, to wit. One of them sat situated as if it had crashed head-first through the window of the Wells Fargo building, its posterior jutting out into the street.
In August, they fanned out across Fayetteville Street, in North Hills, on Golden Belt and American Tobacco campuses in Durham and at UNC-Chapel Hill. But their whimsical appearance inspired more than a few pranks.
Students pushed one cow on its side at UNC, leading to a pair of vandalism arrests. Another had its bowtie swiped. A third was stolen from a Durham car dealership, turning up later with minor damage. Hundreds of tipsy nighttime revelers have taken rides on their backs.
But none of them looked worse for wear on their way to their pre-auction spruce-up. Loaded on to their trucks, rolling away from their temporary perches, they looked like the circus leaving town.
It made a sight fit for dabbing at your moist eye with a handkerchief, waving fondly as the cows come home.