ODESSA, Texas — Whether you’ve lived your whole life in Odessa or you're just visiting, you’ve probably noticed the artsy jackrabbits around the city.
"So in 2004, Keep Odessa Beautiful, Odessa Arts and Downtown Odessa, Inc. got together to create some artistic show pieces around town," Randy Ham, executive director of Odessa Arts said. "And each jackrabbit was sold to a local business, and then paired with a local artist."
Now the question becomes: why jackrabbits?
"There used to be a jackrabbit roping contest here back in the 1930s," Ham said. "And it was very popular as part of the rodeo, and a world record was set by a woman here in Odessa, and so they kind of adopted that as kind of the mascot for the city."
There’s more than 30 jackrabbits around Odessa, and an interactive experience was created so you can see all the jackrabbit art around the city.
"[There's] a jackrabbit trail that you can download [with] the map and [you can] go and find all of the jackrabbits," Ham said.
If you find 16 of the jackrabbits, you can go to Discover Odessa and they'll give you a prize.
Several Odessans have already hopped to every jackrabbit.
"It's especially popular with grandparents and their grandchildren," Ham said.
But it's not just Odessans.
"Just a few days ago," Ham said. "We had some visitors from Switzerland that were looking for things to do, and the Chamber sent them on a jackrabbit hunt."
Showing that the Odessa jackrabbits have gone global.
So if people all the way from Switzerland are finding all these rabbits, you can too.
That’s why I also hopped on the trend.
I drove all around Odessa, finding all sorts of jackrabbits I hadn't seen before.
There’s jackrabbits at the H-E-B, around the hospitals, at parks, even one right in the heart of University of Texas Permian Basin.
And to think that the initial project wasn’t supposed to last this long.
"Those jackrabbits were only supposed to last about five, maybe 10 years, and now we're coming up on 20 years of jackrabbits around town," Ham said. "And they're still as popular as they were 20 years ago."
There’s a reason they’re so popular, it makes Odessa stand out.
What other city has 31 different jackrabbits sitting all around town?
And the most interesting part is the uniqueness of each rabbit.
"One that I see every day on my drive to work is the one outside of Odessa College," Ham said. "And I think it's really great because it's got music notes painted around it. And I think that that one is really beautiful."
And each one tells its own story.
"Each of them is painted in sort of Odessa iconography," Ham said. "And I think it's a great way of representing the city through art."
The journey was a great way to explore Odessa and the city in general.
That’s the beauty of this experience, it’s a way to not only see all the beautiful art from local artists, but it’s a way to explore more parts of the city you might’ve not known were there.
And at the end of the journey, I found myself appreciating Odessa a lot more than when I started.