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Bovine Goldmine 

by Leah Sottile

Before she could perform for the crowd back in 1993, poor Precious died. Somehow, the show continued on that year, just as it has every year since.

Precious was a big lady. She enjoyed eating, standing around and lying in the shade. She was the kind of female who could attract a crowd just to watch her use the restroom or the pasture.

Precious was also a cow - in fact, she was one of the first bovines chosen by Trinity Catholic School to "bake a pie" for their annual Cow Plop Festival. And we're not talking here about strawberry rhubarb, people.

Since the first plop dropped in 1991, Trinity Catholic has found that its annual bingo-plop event has become its second-largest fundraiser, and by far the most fun.

Here's how a cow plop works: volunteers start by drawing a large grid in a pasture. For three bucks, participants can buy any of the squares in the field. On the day of the festival, two cows are paraded out into the field while somebody shouts over the loudspeaker, "Halle-moo-jah!" (No joke.) Crowds gather. The cows graze. Everyone waits for three plops; the third is the grand prize winner. If the cow relieves itself in your chosen square, you could find yourself walking away with $2,000 in your pocket.

This year's cows will be marked with blue and yellow decorations. If your square is the cow's chosen dumping ground, but you have a ticket of the cow's opposite color, you'll still walk away with half of the winnings. And if you've bought one of the 48 squares adjacent to the winning one, you win $25. It's sort of like gambling. Different kind of chips, though.

Michae'l Alegria, an organizer for the annual event and mother of three Trinity students, says that the cows tend to plop in the outer squares, or the ones near any edible foliage.

"They go for the greenery," she says. "They like the shade."

Despite the fact that the festival is one that is centered on bovine bowel movements, Alegria says they've never heard any major complaints about the event.

"I think people think 'eww' at first, but then they realize it's just fun," Alegria says.

Call it disgusting, childish potty humor all you want, but Trinity isn't the first place to rely on cows chips for cash.

"Bovine Day" is held every year in Triplebrook, N.J., as an all-town festival. Avondale High School in Auburn Hills, Mich., holds a "Moo Poo" event every year to raise money for its theater department. In Athens, Ohio, the town plays a game of "Bovine Bingo" in order to sponsor its annual International Film Festival. The ice cream giants, Ben and Jerry, have been known to, ah, milk the events for free publicity, even attending themselves in order to watch a few pies drop.

But few cow plop festivals have seen the "udder" success and history that Trinity has with its annual event.

Jim Meloche was one of the original organizers of the Trinity festival in 1991. He and others had heard the idea from Rev. Tom Wilson of St. Anthony's Church a year before, and finally decided to give it a shot in '91.

After the family-oriented festival went off without a hitch the first year, Trinity families started to rally around the event -- each year selling more tickets, creating T-shirts and bringing in more cows.

Nothing went wrong until the third annual plop.

That year was the first that Trinity decided to count three winning plops - and to use two $7,000 show cows. One of them was the ill-fated Precious.

Good thing they had an extra cow.

When it came time for the featured performers to make their entrance onto the pasture grid, Precious was putting up a fight.

"We got the sick cow up, she makes it a few feet and she buckles over," Meloche says. "I'm thinking, 'TV-2 is here. The mayor is here. The bishop is here.'"

Trinity's pasture was the last pasture that Precious ever saw. Ironically, the poor cow died because it had too much gas.

T-shirts the next year read, "In Memory of Precious."

But every festival has been a bit happier and a bit larger after that fatal fall of Precious. The school has expanded the festival to include carnival games, a beer garden (dubbed one year as "The Moo-Lon Rouge"), a craft sale (The Bovine Boutique) and tons of food. This year, you can wait for the cow to plop while chowing down on David's Pizza.

And as a school that runs on its donations, Trinity continues to see more and more people each year. It's how Precious would have wanted it.

Publication date: 6/03/04

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