On the road with Jilly the Cow

Apparently, “Jilly,” the iconic mascot of Jilbert’s Dairy, had a baby sometime in the past year.

Story and photos by Larry Chabot
At the intersection of Meeske Avenue and West Ridge Street in Marquette, summer crowds are enjoying ice cream treats in the huge shadow of Jilly, a nine-foot-tall fiberglass Guernsey dairy cow weighing more than 500 lbs. Jilly stands silent guard as kids dart under her stomach, rub her face, and pose for photos and videos with one of the U.P.’s greatest attractions. Our little grandson was one of the kids stunned by Jilly’s size as he was lifted to rub the nose.
There are actually five of the big bovines (and one little one), says former Jilbert Dairy owner John Jilbert, who first ordered the mascots in the 1980s for the family business. “We had them made in a shop in Sparta, Wisconsin,” said Jilbert. “They made big statues for other businesses, like Big Boy and Kentucky Fried Chicken.”
One of the originals was at the former Jilbert cheese plant in Rudyard; when that business closed, the cow went downstate to a new owner. The other four are at the dairy, including one famously mounted on top of the dairy building – lifted there by a construction crane while the facility was being remodeled. There are two traveling Jillies on trailers, and the fourth is the big tourist attraction next to the picnic tables. One of the cows evidently gave birth, because a half-size calf appeared on one of the trailers late last summer, ready to join its mom on road trips.

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