I hear Horse Fever is coming back.

Join me on a journey, kiddies.

Once upon a time in the year 2000, I was sitting at my desk as the Marketing Director of Ocala Regional Medical Center. Probably doing strategically important marketing stuff when Paula King came in to meet with me to discuss some public art project.

Translation: She was looking for money.

She sat down and started talking about Horse Fever. The more she talked, the more animated she became. It would be a commissioned project, using local artists who would paint horse statues that would later be placed throughout the community, she said.  There would be a map of the locations (ORMC logo on the map and with the horse) and folks would then meander around the county to see horses, take pictures, blah, blah, blah.  She wanted ORMC to fund the painting of a horse.

Interesting, but not exactly a normal type of marketing/advertising strategy we were used to.  She also mentioned other communities had done this type of public art.

I thanked her, feigned interest and took the information.  I also looked up where else this had been done and connected with some person in Michigan, where they painted pigs.  You read that right: pigs.

I asked him about it, and he said, “I’m not telling you to not do it, but they had to come get all of the pigs. People were driving by and shooting them with BB guns. They were all pock-marked and looked awful.”

After I took all the information to my leadership meeting, at my urging, we decided to pass on this meaningful opportunity.

Dutifully, I called Paula to let her know or our decision. Side note: remember the days when people actually “got back to you with a decision?” Me too.

“Well, let me know quickly if you change your mind,” she said. “This is really taking off. People are excited about it and it’s going to be a great moment for this community.” I admire dedication and perseverance, and Paula had both.

Fast forward: the horses are unveiled at a huge community event and they are absolutely gorgeous. The most popular horse was “Old Glory,” standing tall with an American flag draped across its body. We weren’t invited because I couldn’t share the vision Paula laid out.

In a post-9/11 world, Old Glory became a symbol for the community and the most popular statue. The horses were so popular there were collectable miniature horse statues sold to raise more funds.

A few days later, a beautifully wrapped present showed up on my desk. No tag, no note, just a present. It was an Old Glory statue.

“Old Glory” was painted by Kimberly Samson. A registered nurse. From Ocala Regional Medical Center.

Don’t be a Larry. Support Horse Fever.

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