Meridian’s Painted Ponies: Rearing To Go For A Good Cause

IMG_5170 - Version 3

After exiting the Natchez Trace, and pointing our six-wheeled, articulated, mobile domicile east, we passed through Meridian – a small town in East Central Mississippi.

This wasn’t a planned stop, but floods (and tornados) farther west forced us to keep our plans, umm … fluid.

In Meridian we found more proof of the Gallivance axiom that almost every place has something of interest. Our discovery here was Meridian’s painted ponies, or as the Tourism Board calls them: Around Town Carousels Abound

As it happens, one of Meridian’s city parks has a famous and historic carousel, manufactured in 1896 by premier carousel designer Gustav Dentzel. It was originally exhibited at the 1904 St. Louis Exposition, and then later purchased by the City of Meridian. In 2000, using the carousel horses as a launch point, community activists and city government joined forces to arrange a public art exhibit; which was also a fundraiser for the Hope Village for Children. 

One of our first stops in any new town is the main library because we think it says everything about the town – how they regard their citizens, education, and the future. Meridian did not disappoint and we loved their bookish pony.

“I Spy” by Gail Crawford
“I Spy” by Gail Crawford

And this shimmering steed made us smile with its penny-clad saddle.

Hope's Call
“Hope’s Call” by Nancy Ray

Hope's Call 3

Hope's Call 2

All the kids at Hope Village for Children joined hands to put their marks on this fancy filly. She sits in front of the Hope Village Thrift Store, so we loved her name, “Hand Me Down.”

“Hand Me Down” by Residents of Hope Village
“Hand Me Down” by Residents of Hope Village

Some horses were stunning due to their classic elegance …

Others stole the show with their bold audacity.

As Sela Ward (actress, founder of Hope Village, and Meridian native) puts it:

“Around Town Carousels Abound is more than a collection of beautifully painted horses. It is a testament to what communities can do when they come together to help their least fortunate children.” 

The basic concept is that local artists have the opportunity to paint fiberglass animals, which are displayed, and later auctioned off, with the proceeds going to local charities. Supposedly, the original idea goes back to the “Cow Parade,” which was conceived in Zurich in 1998.

According to the Cow Parade was such a popular and successful concept that it created a whole series of spin-off concepts, including:

  • “Wild Salmon on Parade” in Anchorage, Alaska
  • “Moosefest” in Bennington, Vermont
  • “Miles of Mules” in Bucks County, Pennsylvania
  • “Ducks on Parade” in Eugene, Oregon
  • “Rooster Walk” in Miami, Florida
  • “Horses on Parade” in Rochester, New York
  • “Salmon in the City” in Salem, Oregon
  • “Pigs on Parade” in Seattle, Washington
  • “Moose in the City,” in Toronto, Ontario


We’ve seen bulldogs “Goin’ to the Dawgs” here on our very own island, Tybee Turtles on Tybee Island, Georgia; Horsemania in Lexingon, Kentucky; and Bearfootin’ in Hendersonville, North Carolina. I’m sure that many of you can add to this list as well. 

This is a win-win-win concept and we love it. In addition to the obvious community benefits, as travelers, we love that it’s an inspiring treasure hunt. Searching out these whimsical pieces of public art gets us into parts of town that we might otherwise miss. It gives us a feel for the history and priorities of a place, and always makes us chuckle. In fact, our “Best of Show” in the Humor Category goes to “Iron Horse” in front of the train station, who sports a railroad spike firmly clenched between his teeth.

“Iron Horse” byJim Brashier
“Iron Horse” byJim Brashier

Meridian has 62 painted ponies, and each one promotes art, culture, and helps disadvantaged people in the community. With contributions like this, it’s no surprise that other cities are jumping on board. Do you have a favorite project in another city? We’d love to hear about it. 

Happy Trails,
James and Terri

“Belle Fleur” by Mona Haskins
“Belle Fleur” by Mona Haskins


We're Terri and James Vance - high school sweethearts who went on to international careers and became world nomads. Today, 65 countries later, we're still traveling ... and still in love. Check out Our Story for more of the backstory at

50 thoughts

    1. Thanks Darlene. One of the benefits of blogging, is that it has made us more observant travelers, which in turn, makes our travel more enjoyable and educational. And as a writer, you more than anyone, know how helpful it is to be observant. ~James

    1. Thanks Sue. The search for Meridian’s carousel horses had a side benefit (as usual). Meridian was a booming city in the early 20th century, and consequently, has some nice Art Deco buildings that we probably would have missed if we hadn’t searched out the horses. Calgary’s 200 horses must have been a very fun project, and hopefully, a bit of color to offset the winter white. ~James

      1. James they were actually cows as Calgary’s nickname is Cowtown. 🙂 Some were outside , many were inside. It was such fun to find them. A few that were bought locally can still be spied. I agree that on the search for one thing you often find other treasures.

    1. Thanks Yvette. In our travels, both domestic and international, we’re always in search of internet access. Frequently, this puts us in a public libraries. Over the years we’ve found that usually, the city library is a bellwether for the health, vitality, and vision of the place. ~James

    1. Thanks for the comment and for dropping by the blog Neil. The SLB sculptures are another wonderful example of the infinite variety of ideas and colors in artists’ mind. These sculptures are also cool because of their unusual shape and design. Thanks for bringing them to my attention, and giving our readers a chance to see them. ~James

    1. We haven’t been to Milan Alison, so hadn’t seen the elephants. Thanks for the link. Orcas, bears, and eagles are so perfect for Vancouver. Interestingly, we saw trout somewhere in the US, but can’t remember where what city it was. They were fun as well. ~James

  1. I love carousel animals. A few years ago, I went to the Carousel Museum in Sandusky, Ohio. Every year they build a horse and raffle it off. I bought a ticket, thank goodness I didn’t win, I don’t know what I would have done with a full size carousel horse!

    1. Laura, just imagine what a conversation starter a carousel horse would be in your living room. You could decorate it for each holiday, or use it as a hat rack. So I say, that next time you get a chance to buy a raffle ticket – go for it. ~James

      1. While it certainly would be a great conversation starter, you understand the idea of downsizing. When we move into Waldo in a few years, it would have to go. I did buy the ticket with the idea if I won, I would donate it back to the museum. I suppose I could have mounted it atop Waldo…that really would have been a conversation starter!

  2. Clever and colorful. Testament to “not putting these horses to pasture” and artsy fund raisers bring communities together for good causes.Now I’m curious about Hope Village. Really like your library philosophy.

    1. Thanks Tess. I knew we could count on you to find something interesting. I must admit that “Go Go Gorillas” are my fav. I’m sure that these types of projects must be such great fun for all involved, particularly the artists. It’s not every day one gets to paint a gorilla. It must take a very creative eye. ~James

  3. Love it when you ‘horse’ around James and Teri. And yes, it is always fun when communities have their animal themes. Or murals. It shows the community cares, and has fun. Great photos. –Curt

    1. Thanks Curt. I’m sure that you’ve seen a few of these projects in your travels, and know how fun and beneficial they can be for all involved. Meridian is a small city, and I was a bit surprised to see the horses there, but whatever works. ~James

      1. One of my best friends lives in Philadelphia, Mississippi. Thus I’ve wandered around in the state a fair amount. Peggy, by the way, loves carousel horses and would have them scattered around our property if that were feasible. 🙂 –Curt

    1. You know Anita, that we all suffer from the “in my own backyard” syndrome from time to time. We work hard to see some of the lesser known spots, and it usually pays off. ~ James

  4. Beautiful pieces of art! I really like the hand-me-down horse too.
    In Toronto several years ago, it was moose – although most of them are now gone. Can’t say I know where. There is still one that makes me smile each time I see it. The local business that owns it, dresses it for the applicable ‘occasion’ – Hallowe’en, Christmas, Tour-de-France, etc.

    1. Thanks Joanne. A Tour-de-France moose – that I need to see. I love the whimsical nature of these pieces, and I defy anyone to look at them and not smile. Meridian is an unlikely place for this type of public art, but that’s part of the surprise and fun. ~James

      1. I challenge anyone not to smile when they see a moose in a bike helmet wearing an oversized king-of-the-mountain bike jersey 🙂

        The unlikely finds are the best simply because they are unexpected!

  5. Nice colourful post! To add to the list of similar project we recently came across “Horses, Saratoga Style” in Saratoga Springs, NY. It’s nice to see public art, and for a cause that reflects on a city’s unique personality. -Ginette

    1. I checked out the Saratoga project Ginette, and they look similar to the “horsemania” project in Lexington, Ky. The Bluegrass Region that surrounds Lexington is all about horses, (well, and bourbon) and this was the perfect project, just as in Saratoga. Thanks for the info. I checked out your blog and am excited for you and Gordon on your upcoming RTW. Bonne chance. ~James

  6. Great post! We love the Elephant Parade (, a similar exhibit making its way around the world with an upcoming stop in Hong Kong this August. Maybe I’ll jet up there for an overnight and photograph it. Thanks for the inspiration! ~K.

    1. Thanks Kelly, I didn’t know about the elephant parade. I checked out the website, and realized that elephants are the perfect art animal. They provide lots of canvas on which to paint. ~James

  7. We had rhinos in Southampton England last summer. I spent weeks tracking them all down and posting about them on my blog. I love the idea and the artwork is amazing:)

    1. Aren’t these fun Virginia. And it doesn’t surprise me that an artsy, creative type like you would enjoy them. They are a great idea for so many reasons. Thanks for the comment. ~James

    1. I checked out the Javelinas on Parade online LuAnn, and they’re great. I particularly like the pink pair that had the nail mohawks on their backs. Thanks for the info. ~James

  8. I had no idea that Pigs on Parade, Ducks on Parade, and Salmon on Parade (all of which I have experienced) were spinoffs of the Cow Parade and subsequent Around Town Carousels Abound. Leave it to you two to reveal some of these ‘hidden treasures’ from lesser-known places. You never cease to amaze me. These artistic carousel horses are so appealing. I wonder if children often try to climb on them, or is that frowned upon? – Mike

    1. I can’t see how kids could possibly resist Mike, and I ‘m sure that some stern Meridian sheriff would shoo them off. But that’s never stopped kids in the past. Somehow, I had the idea that the cow parade got it’s start in Chicago, but not so. These horses really were fun, and I’m glad to see a place like Meridian have the project (Thanks to Sela Ward.) ~James

    1. They were a fun treasure hunt, and from other commenters, it appears that the idea has caught on globally. Kelly at Compass&Camera mentions elephants on your part of the globe. “Elephant Parade (, a similar exhibit is making its way around the world with an upcoming stop in Hong Kong this August.”

    1. Thank you so much! I too am a horse oriented soul, and the minute I set eyes on your beautiful Gypsy Vanners I was smitten! 🙂 So glad that you stopped by. All the best, Terri

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