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Prairie dog quest

Jane Kincaid, 8, left, and her sister Lila Kincaid, 5, of Manassas, Va., check out the prairie dog in front of Uncle John's on Historic Fourth Street in March 2003.

SIOUX CITY | In 1998, Zurich, Switzerland, unveiled a lineup of whimsically decorated fiberglass cows that delighted residents and tourists. Following that success came animals-as-art displays in dozens of communities in Europe and the United States.

So why not in Siouxland?

Thus the Prairie Dog Quest was born.

A public art project of the Sioux City Art Center launched in November 2001, it was initiated to promote art, civic pride, tourism and Siouxland's prominence in the Lewis & Clark Bicentennial.

The project also raised funds for Art Center programs through sponsorships.

Prairie dogs were plentiful during the Lewis & Clark Expedition, which passed through the area in 1804. The explorers were fascinated by the "barking squirrels." The caught one and shipped it to President Thomas Jefferson in Washington, D.C. It later was transported to the Museum of Natural History in Philadelphia to be put on public display.

Beginning in May 2002, 41 Prairie Dogs popped up at dozens of outdoor Siouxland locations, including businesses, public buildings, medical facilities, nonprofit institutions and private homes.

University of South Dakota sculptor Martin Wanserski designed the basic form for the prairie dogs. Siouxland artists added the finishing whimsical and unique touches.

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