Bessie the Cow: Better as a promoter or left as an au naturel icon?

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Jim Leute
January 14, 2015

JANESVILLE—Breast cancer awareness month was in October, but a Janesville icon is still showing her support, much to the chagrin of some who think Bessie the Cow needs to either move on to another cause or return to her more natural self.

That's the consensus of several recent callers to The Gazette's Sound Off column:

-- “Either decorate her for everything or forget about all the causes and get those ugly pink spots off of her.”

-- “Bessie is supposed to represent Wisconsin as America's Dairyland. She should not be used as a billboard for various causes.”

-- “It's time for Bessie to stop promoting cancer and get back to looking like a healthy Wisconsin cow again.”

-- “She is the first thing people see when they drive into our beautiful city, and it's pretty impressive. We could do more with her, though I agree the pink spots now need to go.”

-- “The people responsible have made a sickening mockery of this once-lovely Janesville landmark. …Get that ugly pink paint removed. Let's see our Bessie back to her natural self.”

For those who don't know, Bessie is a 16-foot-tall, 20-foot-long, one-ton fiberglass cow.

Purchase in 1966 and dedicated at The Janesville Oasis property in a ceremony that included Miss Universe, Bessie presided over her turf on Milton Avenue near Interstate 90/39 for 40 years.

Many a wedding party and traveler gathered for photos around her brown and white legs.

Tom Lasse is one of the owners of Badger Property Investments, which owns and has developed numerous properties along Milton Avenue.

When Badger bought the former Oasis and Ramada Inn properties, Bessie came with the deal.

Bessie was removed from the site, refurbished and returned in 2008.

Lasse said as long as he owns Bessie, he intends to use her to promote the city and different causes.

“I really do like the idea of her being used when we can to promote various causes that cause no conflict in the community,” he said, noting that Bessie will utter nary a moo on controversial issues.

“I'd like to do it every month,” he said.

While Lasse said cancer awareness deserves attention 12 months a year, he admits Bessie's pink spots have lingered too long.

Lasse's explanation mirrors the one posted on the bovine's Facebook page:

“The pink was only intended to stay on for the month of October to raise awareness for breast cancer,” she said. “Unfortunately, we had that cold snap in November when the vinyl was supposed to be removed. The vinyl is only supposed to be removed from a surface if the temperature is above 50 degrees.

“Obviously we don't want to do any damage to my beautiful hide, so we have to wait the weather out.”

As Lasse puts it: “We got caught with our pants down on that one.”

Lasse was asked about Bessie's Facebook page and it's connection to the fiberglass bovine and his property development business.

“It's just connected,” he said, declining to go into more detail.

“Bessie is there 24/7, and she keeps up with what's going on.”

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