LAST CALL: Omaha trips out with latest tourist draw

Chicago and New York had their cows, Norfolk its mermaids and

Toronto its moose. Now Omaha has drafted artistically embellished 'J.

Doe' statues to pop up across the city this summer, in an attempt to

jazz up the streets.



Last year, city leaders hired a research firm to find out what Americans

thought about Omaha. People just don't think about the city much at all,

it turns out. So PR, advertising and travel marketing agencies were

hired to build Omaha an image before its new convention center opens in

2003.



The city's new tag line, 'Omaha: Rare. Well done,' plays on its beefy

reputation. But since the cow thing is now too well done, locals chose

to artistically depict the friendliness of Midwestern citizenry. 'We

wanted to get away from the animals or the inanimate type objects and

come up with the gender-neutral concept to give artists more

flexibility,' explained Tim McNeil, manager of the local convention and

visitors bureau.



A hundred figures adorned with everything from flowers to bison will

greet Omaha visitors beginning next week.



Personally, we just think they're a bit scary. But then, so's the

thought of a trip to Omaha.



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