Straight from the horse’s mouth: Mask up

By , Daily Memphian Updated: July 29, 2020 1:45 PM CT | Published: July 28, 2020 4:19 PM CT

Eleven decorative horses in Germantown have donned masks, encouraging residents to follow the Shelby County Health Department’s mask order issued more than three weeks ago.

“While mask and face covering has been mandated by the Shelby County Health Department, in Germantown, we have taken the approach to encourage, educate and enforce within our city,” Germantown Mayor Mike Palazzolo said by email Tuesday. “Today, we launched a comprehensive campaign with the masking of our iconic horses as the beginning of an ongoing effort to promote public health safety.” 

Michele Betty, city clerk, and Leslie Acerra, public works office manager, volunteered as “city stitchers” and crafted the horses’ masks. 

Shelby County Health Department mandating masks

“Both Michele and I sew and quilt, and we have been making baby quilts for the NICU at the hospital for a long time,” Acerra said.

When the idea for the horses was presented, the two anxiously joined the campaign.

“That was the most unusual request in the 20 plus years I’ve been with the city,” Betty said, laughing.

Both already made some masks for friends and health care workers, but Betty notes this was the first time they made them for “animals.” The pattern for human masks was adapted for the horses. They had to find material to last and lots of fabric fasteners to attach them to the horses.

“Fortunately, with the horses, one size fits all,” Betty said.

The horses’ facial coverings resemble medical masks as a way to thank and recognize health care workers for their ongoing frontline fight, Palazzolo said. 

Stacey Ewell, assistant to the city administrator, said the city had begun planning a health-precautions campaign before the county mandate, and the equestrian masks were a component of a larger effort.

Germantown rallies to ‘Feed the Frontline’

“We understand this is not going away next week,” she said. “We kind of want to phase (the campaign) in.”

Soon, signs around the city and on light posts will remind residents to take proper precautions to fight COVID-19. Current signs beside the horses say “Germantown Fighting Together.”

The message will be on some T-shirts, masks and other items the city plans to distribute.

“We want to try to encourage everyone to help keep others safe and encourage people to take care of their neighbors,” Ewell said. “The average age in Germantown is older, and we have a responsibility to protect our residents, and that’s what we try to do.”

About 20 painted horses trotted into Germantown in 2008 to celebrate the annual Germantown Charity Horse Show. Many are scattered throughout the city as a visible symbol of the suburb’s equestrian heritage. 

All have unique names, and Phloxy might be the most famous of all. Phloxy was painted with daffodils and sat outside Millstone Nursery near Poplar Estates until she was stolen. The horse was removed from her concrete slab, one hoof left behind by the thief. Now, a horse named “Going on a Phlox Hunt” sits outside the nursery, and drivers along Poplar Avenue can see it wearing its mask.


Germantown Germantown painted horses Germantown Charity Horse Show
Abigail Warren

Abigail Warren

Abigail Warren is a lifelong resident of Shelby County and a graduate of the University of Memphis. She has worked for several local publications and covers the suburbs for The Daily Memphian.


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