Downtown Business Spotlight – CowParade SLO

cowparadeCowParade SLO
Tom Halen
669 Pacific Street, Suite C

This September, you may begin to spot decorated cows in Downtown and throughout SLO County. If this happens don’t be worried, you aren’t going insane. Rather, the global art exhibit CowParade, which first started in Chicago in 1999, is making its way to the beautiful Central Coast.

Tom Halen, a local of San Luis Obispo, and Alan Vander Horst were the ones who initially proposed the idea to bring the exhibit to San Luis Obispo, citing the strong heritage component and the relevance of arts in the area.  “With SLO having such a strong history in agriculture and dairy, there’s definitely an intriguing juxtaposition between this and the art scene in the county,” Halen said.

For the event in SLO County, there are 101 cows up to be sponsored, representing Highway 101 that runs through the area. The cows will stretch from San Simeon to Nipomo, each one unique.
Currently, there are two-dozen spaces that have been identified as potential spots for cows in the Downtown area. You can find one of the cows, Thumbelina, at CowParade’s booth at our Downtown SLO Farmers’ Market every Thursday night.

In addition to being an incredible display of art, this event also benefits local charities, specifically the Land Conservancy of San Luis Obispo County, Arts Obispo and the California Mid-State Fair Heritage Foundation. After being on display from September 2016 to April 2017, the cows will be auctioned in May, with the net proceeds going to these charities.

There are several options for businesses to sponsor a cow, they can invest in a full sponsorship, or split it with another business. For businesses that are part of the SLO Downtown Association, there are other exclusive sponsorship opportunities as well. From there, the business can supply their own artist or use one of the artists that have applied through CowParade SLO.

“This really is a unique event,” Halen said. “It’s an opportunity to raise money and awareness for a number of non-profits, to showcase local talent in arts on an international level, and it draws people’s attention to our area.”

Over 5,000 cows and 10,000 artists have been a part of CowParade, and now the people of SLO County have an opportunity to get involved with this event. If you’re interested in sponsoring a cow within the Downtown area or would like more information, visit

By: Jackie Steele

San Luis Obispo Downtown Association

1108 Garden Street, Suite 210
San Luis Obispo, CA 93401
Phone: (805) 541-0286
Fax: (805) 781-2647

(805) 458-5153

Old SLO Trolley

Trolley service is provided from both of the parking structures and at convenient locations within the Downtown core approximately every 15 minutes. The fare is 50 cents. Hours of operation are:

  • Thursdays - 5 PM to 9 PM - Year Round
  • Fridays - 5 PM to 9 PM - June-Labor Day
  • Saturday - 5 PM to 9 PM - April - October

Click here for the Trolley and City bus schedule.