As soon as you hit Marysville’s city limits, you realize there’s something special about this northeast Kansas community. With a sign identifying it as the “Black Squirrel City,” you may think it odd that a city is proud of its local rodents. But, Marysville is, in fact, so proud of its black squirrel population that the city council passed an ordinance several years ago making it illegal to harm them, or worse.
Marysville seems to be a natural fit for us, as our family loves squirrels. It started with the youngest daughter’s fascination with them. It has grown over the years. Feeders have been set up, so corn, nuts, seeds and more can be shared with the critters daily. We loved it when we had red and black squirrels living in our backyard. So, when Lisa asked me if I’d like to drive about two hours south of Omaha to check out a series of black squirrel sculptures, I was ready to go then.
We enjoyed a day trip to Marysville to view the Black Squirrels on Parade sculptures. Almost 35 of the five-foot-tall black fiberglass sculptures were created about five years ago as a tourist attraction. At that time, they didn’t realize they were creating a monster of attractions. Busloads of tourists arrive several times a week from spring through fall, bringing hundreds of squirrel fans to town, eager to explore the statues, as well as check out the city’s other attractions.
Legend has it that Marysville became a black squirrel town in 1912 when a boy released the squirrels from cages during a festival. The squirrels scattered and their population has grown over the last century. About a quarter of the city’s squirrel population is black. The squirrels are used to people approaching them and taking photographs, so they don’t tend to scamper away right away. And I appreciated that, as I was able to get a few nice shots of them.
But, we came to town to check out the sculptures. Armed with a map of the self-guided tour, we explored the city of 3,000 people for a day. Beginning in the city park, the decorated sculptures are located around town.
With sculptures representing businesses or with designs supporting healthcare workers, military, and other occupations and attractions, each sculpture was designed by artists to create unique creatures.
Each squirrel has been named, including Scrubbie, who wears a protective face mask outside a local medical clinic.
Cyclone recognizes the city’s summer sports programs with a tail that resembles a baseball.
With 34 sculptures on display, a visit to Marysville makes for a fun day trip. You can print out a map or download it to your phone. You’ll have a blast exploring Marysville as you may resemble a squirrel looking nuts as you search for the squirrel sculptures.