Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Go, Fight, Win, HIPPOS!!!

We were drawn to the city of Hutto, Texas, for one reason, but its history was a story in itself.
"Hutto was cattle country before farming took over. When the farmers came, cotton and agriculture was king. It was after the depression of the 1930’s, that the City of Hutto was reduced to a core of about 500 to 600 people that lived, worked and died here.
"Since the 1990 census declaration of 630 Hutto citizens, the City of Hutto has exploded to a population of over 10,000 in 2005" (Mike Fowler at williamson-county-historical-commission.org/Hutto/Hutto_Heritage) and over 18,000 in 2012.
While we tried to absorb the implication of those population numbers, we could understand the reason for the relatively small historical district. When we met Julie in the Chamber of Commerce office and expressed our interest in the architecture of the downtown area, we also commented that it was unfortunate that several of the buildings were empty.

She responded, "Not for long" and briefly mentioned that the city leaders were working to restore buildings, rejuvenate the downtown, and protect the town's heritage. She was very convincing.
Regarding the city's growth, the question as to the reason for it went unasked. Towns and cities around Austin are all experiencing rapid growth rates, but I don't know if it is more than their geographical location. (Projections for nearby Georgetown: its population of 48,000 is expected to double by 2020.)
There is much character in these buildings, so I would like to see the results of these plans in a few years.
A recent movie was filmed at the Texan Café, so that may be one means of preserving the architecture.
Which brings us to another bit of Hutto's history--and the reason for our plan to visit Hutto. And that is the story behind the Hutto Hippos.

"According to local legend, it was in 1915 that a circus train stopped in Hutto at the depot to take on passengers, pick up mail and possibly take on water and fuel for the steam locomotive. The circus train workers also would have taken this opportunity to care for their animals. At some point during this historic layover, it is said that the hippo got out of the railcar and made its way to the nearby Cottonwood Creek causing much consternation for the circus workers.
Hippo statue in the heart of downtown

"Local farmers and merchants watched the commotion in amusement and with interest as unsuccessful efforts were made to extricate the troublesome hippopotamus from the muddy waters of Cottonwood Creek.
One of the many small hippos located around town; this one is outside the Chamber of Commerce office.

"It is said that the Depot Agent, who at that time would have been Hal Farley, Jr., had to telegraph the communities of Taylor and Round Rock that were eight miles to the east and west of Hutto to the effect of: 'Stop trains, hippo loose in Hutto'.
"After much effort the hippo was prodded from the mud and water that resembled its natural habitat and was reloaded back on the train.
"Roger Brooks, the CEO of Destination Development, Inc., relates this historical reference to the commercial development (and tourism industry) of Hutto. Writing in the April 2004 edition of the Texas Municipal League publication, Texas Town & City titled: "Make It Easy to Tell Your Cows From My Cows: Why Branding Your City Is Important," Brooks explained his “Ten Rules of Branding.”
"Brooks, known as 'the Dr. Phil of tourism,' stated that 'In its simplest form, branding is the art of setting yourself apart from everyone else.'
His rules seemed "...clearly applicable to Hutto and the hippo identifier.
"It has been frequently stated that other communities will search for something unique to be associated with and often spend huge sums of money to create even artificial symbols for themselves.
"When you read the Roger Brooks article on 'branding' and fully relate its importance to Hutto, it is clear that we have a perfect identifier and hook with the hippopotamus.
These two hippos are located at the entrance to Fritz Park. The flag of Texas is represented on the hippo above; the US flag on the one below.
This is exactly and correctly what Hippos Unlimited has been promoting for the past three years. Hippos Unlimited is a group that seeks to “educate, publicize promote the Hutto Community through the use of its primary identifier--the Hippo” (ibid., Mike Fowler).
This hippo is located, as you might guess, outside the Hutto Fire Station.

This hippo group is located near the Wells Fargo Bank along Highway 79.

Finally, when Hutto School adopted the hippopotamus as its mascot (as early as 1923 it appeared on the Hutto High School official graduation announcements) the hippopotamus was firmly associated with the history and life of Hutto.

I can just hear those cheers resounding around the football field on Friday nights: "Touchdown, Hippos!"