Wildcats, big and small, will begin popping up around town next week in an effort to support merchants and bolster local commerce.
Oxford’s beloved mascot figures prominently in Experience Oxford, a new event that will run from Friday, April 20 through Sunday, April 22.
Its purpose is to elevate public awareness about the wide range of goods and services available in the village and township by encouraging folks to explore the diverse business community that exists in their own backyard.
Experience Oxford’s two main elements are “The Wildcat Walk” and “Where’s the Wildcat?”
“The Wildcat Walk” consists of fiberglass Wildcat statues being strategically placed in various locations around the community.
Thanks to sponsors, seven statues were purchased, according to Stacey Beane, one of the event’s organizers and co-owner of You, Me, and Bubble Tea in downtown Oxford.
With a height of 30 inches and a length of 48 inches, each statue is a blank canvas to be painted, or otherwise decorated, and transformed into a unique and colorful attraction.
It’s hoped that visitors will come to view the statues, photograph them, post images on social media and take a peek inside the surrounding businesses to learn what each has to offer.
“We don’t have all the exact locations yet, but I’m pretty sure we’re going to have one (in) Centennial Park, one at each end of town and then a couple in the middle,” Beane said.
There will also be statues placed outside the Oxford Public Library and Oxford High School.
Wildcat statues will be on display until September, at which point they will be publicly auctioned off to benefit three local charities – the Pay It Forward Scholarship in memory of Megan Abbott (a 15-year-old OHS freshman who took her own life in 2013), the Oxford Public Library Friends and Wildcat Warriors.
Wildcat Warriors is a new charity. It’s mission is to help the families of Oxford children dealing with medical issues pay their expenses, according to Beane.
“It will eventually be a 501(c)(3) and be used every year for this event,” she said.
Beane said some businesses will be selling special items to benefit one of the three aforementioned charities.
For example, You, Me and Bubble Tea will sell handmade fairy dolls for $12 each with 100 percent of the proceeds benefiting the Pay It Forward Scholarship.
A pop-up art show will be held at The Monument Station, located at 27 S. Washington St., next to Centennial Park. It will run all three days.
According to Beane, proceeds from the show will be donated to the Pay It Forward Scholarship. The artwork was donated by the family of a deceased school teacher/artist named Clare Greenwood, who was the epitome of living the pay-it-forward philosophy, she said.
“She raised four children who weren’t her own as well as her biological son who was mentally impaired,” Beane said. “(She) took care of her boyfriend of over 30 years who suffered from Alzheimer’s.”
“Even after she passed away, she continued to pay it forward by donating her body to the University of Michigan Medical (School) to further the education of many students as well as benefit medical research.”
In addition to the statues, kids of all ages are invited to participate in a scavenger hunt-type activity dubbed “Where’s the Wildcat?”
Special passports will be available at 23 local businesses. Children can get one, free of charge, beginning April 20, then go out and find a 6-inch-tall cardboard Wildcat hidden inside each of the 23 establishments.
Every time they locate one of the Wildcats , they can get their passport stamped.
Collecting at least 10 stamps earns the holder an official “I Found the Wildcat” button.
Completing the entire passport (23 stamps) entitles the holder to be entered into a drawing for bigger prizes.
There’s no limit on how many times a person can enter. Passports must be turned in at You, Me, and Bubble Tea (40 N. Washington St.).
“It’s going to run all summer,” Beane said
To keep things fresh and challenging, once a month, the little Wildcat will be moved to a different location inside each of the participating establishments.
As part of Experience Oxford, businesses located outside the downtown area, local nonprofit and service groups, and businesses that lack a brick-and-mortar presence are invited to set up in Centennial Park and market themselves to the public.
“If somebody still wants to sign up, they’re welcome to do that,” Beane said. “There is no charge, but they will have to provide their own tent and their own table.”
Live entertainment will be part of Experience Oxford. Right now, it consists of a mix of singers, local bands and OHS orchestra students, but Beane indicated other types of performers – such as jugglers, magicians, clowns and artists – are encouraged to sign up as well.
Experience Oxford will run from 5-9 p.m. on Friday, April 20; 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday, April 21; and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday, April 22.
To learn more about Experience Oxford, visit its Facebook page.
To contact event organizers, send an email to email@example.com.