'Scape Goats: Goebel Park's Prized Animals Flee Parade
This story has been updated now that all goats have been recovered. See new photos and video at bottom of article.
Hundreds gathered at the southern end of the Roebling Suspension Bridge for what was hoped to become an annual tradition in Covington: the Running of the Goats.
The popular Goebel Goats, so named for the park in Mainstrasse Village that they keep trim during the warm months, were corralled at the Covington Farmers Market for what would have been a well-attended parade through the streets of downtown to their summer home. While most of the goats made it to Goebel Park, they took a much more circuitous path.
Crowd gathers to watch the Running of the Goats begin
As soon as the gates opened, five goats bolted from their volunteer handlers and headed north towards the Suspension Bridge. A small group of bystanders and organizers chased after, but the goats were able to escape down the steps to RiverCenter Boulevard.
From there, the goats entered the RiverCenter towers parking garage, exited on the western side to Madison Avenue, and though they were briefly surrounded at Covington Landing - the overlook that creeps out into the Ohio River and faces the Cincinnati skyline - the goats were able to continue their run, which then continued westward along the flood wall behind the Marriott Hotel, then underneath the Clay Wade Bailey Bridge, then the under the Brent Spence Bridge, and then finally to the lower hills of Devou Park at the intersection of Highway and Western Avenues.
It was becoming clear at this point that the inaugural Running of the Goats had turned into something completely different than planned.
The River City News editor & publisher Michael Monks joined the search party and broadcast live on RCN's Facebook page for nearly 75 minutes.
There were seven goats originally expected to make up the parade through the streets. Gus Wolf, owner of the goats and leader of Covington's urban agriculture projects, recruited volunteers to help corral the animals during the event. Five of the seven goats managed to escape.
Within an hour, three of the goats had been captured again - one in the Devou Park woods, and two in the Lewisburg neighborhood. As of 5:15 p.m., two were still on the loose but were believed to be in the Devou Park area. Their hoof marks were being tracked.
Gus Wolf talks with a Covington Police officer about the situation
Wolf returned five goats to Goebel Park where a crowd of dozens of people remained, awaiting word of the goats' fate. They celebrated the goats' arrival and excitedly snapped pictures as the goats returned to their fenced area, where they will maintain the grass and weeds.
Wolf took a moment to address the gathered crowd.
"One positive is I saw a lot more placed where we need goats in Covington," Wolf said. "Our woods are a mess." He also noted the attention that the Goebel Goats have brought to Covington. The Farmers Market typically brings about 150 people to Third Street every Saturday, but on this day - after weeks of social media promotion - Wolf said there were nearly 2,000 people at the market and along the streets waiting to catch a glimpse of the goats.
Norm Desmarais, president of Covington-based TiER1 - a sponsor of one of the goats that remained missing - spoke optimistically. "I'm not really concerned. A TiER1 goat can blaze its own trail," he said. "It understands the environment and can take care of itself. It will have a great story to tell about the Devou woods and may be looking for new areas to forage next year.
"We'll have a little discussion about goat behavior next year."
Whether there will be a second annual Running of the Goats - or maybe, technically, a second "first" annual Running - has yet to be determined, but Wolf said that there would be more training for volunteers.
The demand is clearly there. Though the route was not utilized, there were messages written in sidewalk chalk and hand-made signs adorning the buildings that the Goebel Goats would have passed, welcoming them back for the summer, if only they had stayed the course.
The goats that made it to Goebel Park will be available for public viewing throughout the summer and early fall.
The two remaining goats were recovered on Saturday morning on the 800 block of Crescent Avenue where they were found safe and unharmed. They have been returned to Goebel Park.
Story & photos by Michael Monks, editor & publisher