Newest bison reveal paints positive picture of first responders

ST. GEORGE — The 18th Dixie State Trailblazer Bison was revealed at Red Cliffs Mall Friday afternoon, but this unveiling was something different.

The newly-unveiled Red Cliffs Mall Trailblazer Bison during a ceremony Friday, Jan. 31, 2020, St. George, Utah. | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

It was apparent by the uniformed police officers and firefighters in attendance that this one was about first responders.

St. George Mayor Jon Pike has attended many bison unveilings, but he said this one was personal for him.

“We have a lot of nice things in St. George, and one of the reasons we get to enjoy it is because these first responders keep us safe,” Pike said. “They run into danger and run into harm’s way when we’re all trying to get away.”

The newest uniquely painted Trailblazer, titled “The Heroes Among Us,”  has been in the works since March and took local artist Todd Fowler four months to paint in oil using only a small paintbrush. With a thin blue line American flag on one side and a thin red line version on the other, it depicts images of actual St. George first responders in action with the emblems of the St. George fire and police departments.

The bison program is part of Dixie State University’s Trailblazer Art in the City project that Dixie State Vice President of Marketing and Communication Jordon Sharp said is the school’s outreach to the community with the goal of making St. George a premier college town. Local artists submit applications to put brush to bison hide, while local businesses bid to corral a Trailblazer to front their address as a sponsor.

The just-unveiled Red Cliffs Mall Trailblazer Bison during a ceremony Friday, Jan. 31, 2020, St. George, Utah. | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

Cory Ashby, general manager of Red Cliffs Mall, got a firsthand look at “The Heroes Among Us” taking shape from diagrams on a piece of paper to the finished product unveiled Friday. The management of the mall felt their bison had to go beyond just a nice piece of art.

“We wanted a sense of community,” Ashby said. “In a broader scope, we can all be heroes.”

The Red Cliffs Mall Trailblazer will actually be displayed inside the mall for a few months before getting a permanent home outside the mall building. That’s because it will take that long for the oil-paint base of the bison to fully set before a final lacquer can be applied to allow this bison to brave the elements.

When the mall officials came to Fowler with what they wanted to see on the bison, it was a perfect inspiration for the artist. He was a military firefighter in the Navy and his father was a firefighter for the Air Force at Nellis Air Force Base.

“I jumped on board right away because I was a firefighter. My father was a firefighter,” Fowler said. “This was just something that was dear to my heart.” 

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Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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