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A Bovine by Any Other Name

By Adele Suslick, Education Coordinator

The Taste of Champaign attracted lots of people to West Side Park this past August for the city’s annual gastronomic celebration. Vendors from local restaurants sold food, local artist sold crafts, and the Champaign County History Museum provided bags of freshly popped corn from its famous red Creator wagon, once displayed at the Smithsonian Institute for three years. As people munched on hot, crispy kernels, they wandered into the Museum’s blue vinyl tent. Children inside were trying to pitch a ring held by a string onto the large, upward-turned nose of a knave. (Thanks Board Member Joe Muskin for jigsawing hundred of these.) Children as well as adults colored the faces with every imaginable combination including  green and purple and hot orange. “Uhhs”and “ahhs” and laughter soon became a chorus in which adults were as vocal as the kids.

And then it happened.

Visitors noticed a curious glass jar with folded slips of paper inside. The Champaign County History Museum had just selected a steer for its new mascot, and it wanted the general  public to help pick a name.

This was not a trivial matter.

Our home, the Cattle Bank plays an important role in our local history.  It is the oldest commercial building in Champaign county and built in 1856. The name "Cattle" referred to the commodity of the day in Champaign County the same way many banks called them selves the "Farmers State Bank" as corn and soybeans took over. It is in the spirit that we selected a cow for our mascot!

The entries from the community members at the Taste of Champaign were extremely creative.  Among those submitted were:

1. MOOseum 2. Short Horn 3. Money 4. Moo Moo 5. Red Jersey 6. Elsie 7. Ferdinand 8. Bessie 9. Bruce 10. Milk

Many other names were suggested, but the Education Committee presented the following list before the Board of Trustees for an official vote:

1. Champ (short for Champaign County) 2. Ben (in honor of Benjamin Franklin "BF" Harris) 3. Grover (referring to Big Grove in Urbana) 4. Oakly (the building adjoining the Cattle Bank) 5. Wilber (in honor of our museum first home the Wilber Mansion on University Avenue)

And at long last, the Champaign County History Museum selected “Wilber” as the name for our new mascot.

We will use this mascot to engage our youngest visitors in new and creative ways including special markers on our labels to call out special topics related to kids.

Special thanks to Board Member Alan Arnold for designing our mascot as well as an activity booklet for younger elementary school students visiting the Museum. Thanks to our Secretary Emily Cliff for running the crafts table at the Taste of Champaign-Urbana. And thanks to the Brock family who did a lot of everything.  We are grateful to all the many volunteers who helped make this event a success.

The Champaign County History Museum thanks each and every one of our participants. As always, if you would like to become a member of the Champaign County History Museum, visit our website to sign up. Our memberships start as low as $35/year and 100% of the proceeds go to preserving our history for generations to come.


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