When you drive by the beautifully designed oxen around town, you might wonder why we chose an ox. The ox is actually a very significant animal to Mercer County and Hopewell Valley! Olly, as we have so affectionately named him, is an icon of the Valley’s agricultural heritage. With a team of oxen still plowing the fields at Howell Living History Farm, the ox symbolizes strength and teamwork. And a lot of teamwork is what it took to bring the Stampede to life: a team full of talented artists and community volunteers has joined together for the collective good of Hopewell Valley. In fact, this Saturday, at the Howell Living History Farm’s annual plowing contest, you can see the oxen in action, working as they did a hundred years ago!
And here’s a fun little anecdote about how one special ox made its way to Hopewell Township, NJ:
“A few days after the New York Giants beat the Denver Broncos 39-20 in Super Bowl XXI, the Mercer County Park Commission became the owner of a 1,200-pound Angus steer that then-Gov. Tom Kean won in a nationally publicized bet with Colorado Gov. Roy Romer.
The Colorado cowboys who delivered the steer to Mercer County’s Howell Living History Farm were dubious over the plan to use him for educational purposes instead of meat. He was ornery, they said. And aggressive. The big orange tag in his ear marking him ‘1’ was not just a symbol of Broncos’ colors and pride; it was the number he got for being the first out of the feedlot — and into the chute to the slaughterhouse. The Pride of Colorado, as they called him, was, after all, grade-A Angus steak, not the kind of beef that sturdy oxen are made of
Renamed ‘The Jersey Giant’ and trained to pull plows and wagons like the farm’s other oxen and horses, Giant was so easygoing before an audience that he was drafted that October to help Gov. Kean break ground for the New Jersey Museum of Agriculture in New Brunswick. In the decade that followed, he made guest appearances at fairs and festivals statewide, including one in Trenton, where, with his teammate Lyon, he helped plow an abandoned lot for use in a novel ‘city greening’ program that today has more than 35 gardens.” – Pete Watson in Remembering ‘The Jersey Giant,’ the 1,200-pound Angus steer won in Super Bowl XXI bet
We bring this up in time for Howell Living History Farm’s plowing match THIS Saturday, August 30th. Visit the farm to watch old-fashioned plowing and log-pulling competitions amongst horses and oxen. Bring your family out to see the oxen that inspired the Hopewell Valley Arts Council Stampede, and the Stampede ox “Local History – Global Impact”! In addition to farm animal fun, there will be barbecuing, live music, crafts and pony rides for children.