Donkey 'ambassador' to roam Palo Alto

Huggable toy critter to help find places, things residents love

Move over, El Palo Alto, the city is about to get a new icon.

Palo Alto Perry, a 3-foot-high stuffed animal wearing a set of matching saddlebags, is on a sojourn to find out what's lovable in Palo Alto.

Sporting a gray coat, white muzzle, and unusually lifelike, gentle eyes, this fuzzy official "Neighborhood Ambassador of Palo Alto" will travel throughout the city for the next two months in search of the most endearing places and things.

The donkey's travels, which are part of a city-sponsored project to identify and celebrate what's great about Palo Alto, will start with the 93rd May Fete Parade in downtown on May 2 at 10 a.m. Mayor Karen Holman will be the first of a string of ambassadors who will host Palo Alto Perry through July 4.

Residents, organizations and employees can become ambassadors too, taking the donkey for "walks" around neighborhoods, offices and schools and gathering good will along the way, said Alison Williams, city recreation events coordinator and Palo Alto Perry Project team member.

Potential ambassadors will need to fill out an online application, where they will describe where they'll take the donkey and why they want to be a diplomat, she said. As Palo Alto Perry and his human ambassadors make the rounds, they'll take photos of the donkey with people and the places where he has been. The pictures will be posted on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

People who encounter the donkey can place notes about what they love in the city into the saddlebags, she said.

Williams and her team members said they hope the Palo Alto Perry Project will help counter some of residents' negative feelings that have cropped up in the city in recent years. The idea sprang from a challenge by Peter Kageyama, author of "For the Love of Cities: The Love Affair Between People and Their Places," during a city-sponsored community workshop in February called For the Love of Palo Alto, she said.

"The last thing in this seminar was for our groups to come up with an unusual Palo Alto 'thing' that could make our city come together and see the lovable aspects," she said.

Palo Alto's beloved live donkeys, Miner 49er and Pericles (Perry), seemed like the perfect catalysts, Williams added. Since the donkeys, who live in a paddock in Bol Park, often go out for Sunday strolls with their handlers to greet park visitors, a traveling stuffed-toy ambassador in search of warm, fuzzy feelings seemed to fit right in.

As co-winners of the Kageyama challenge (the other is the Arborist's Project, which plans to spread some humor with a joke a day), the Perry Project received a $500 stipend. Team members used some of the funds to purchase the sturdy donkey from Amazon.

When he arrived, Williams said she could hardly wait to get him out of the shrink wrap.

The donkey is already creating a buzz, Williams said. People stop when they see him, and he has gotten 39 "likes" on Facebook without any publicity.

"Nice horse," a man said and smiled, as Perry made his way down the stairs at King Plaza outside City Hall.

Palo Alto Perry, in his diplomatic way, gave nary a bray at the misnomer. He has way too much to do.

In preparation for his public outings, he plans to visit key institutions.

"He'll receive a wellness check from doctors at Palo Alto Medical Foundation, and he'll get a license and his vaccinations at Palo Alto Animal Services," Williams said.

The donkey will make his final appearance at the 34th Annual Summer Festival and Chili Cookoff at Mitchell Park on July 4, where festival goers can add the final notes to his saddlebags. Then, sometime in the weeks thereafter, he will present the notes to the Palo Alto City Council, and they, in turn, will grant him a proclamation.

More information about Palo Alto Perry is posted at and on Twitter at @PaloAltoPerry. Anyone who wants to apply to be an ambassador can go to

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11 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 26, 2015 at 10:14 am

How fun! Sometimes, we're so busy adding up our troubles that we forget to count our blessings. We can't see the roses for the thorns. Hopefully, Perry will remind us about all of the great things in our community!

4 people like this
Posted by Jack Ass
a resident of South of Midtown
on Apr 27, 2015 at 1:08 pm

[Post removed.]

5 people like this
Posted by Brandy
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 27, 2015 at 3:47 pm

Hellooooo! Why isn't Niner the ambassador? He's got seniority on Perry by 10 years.

7 people like this
Posted by why?!
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 27, 2015 at 8:12 pm

Why couldn't we put that money towards something like.... Youth sports, feeding the hungry, clothing the cold, giving underprivileged kids school supplies. But I guess another ass walking University Ave. Is a better idea...

4 people like this
Posted by Abitarian
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 28, 2015 at 8:36 am

Maybe this is something fun for the little kids, but I would much rather see city leaders and staff spend time and money to solve problems rather than to make PR campaigns. I am well aware what's good about Palo Alto. After all, I choose to live here (at great expense).

8 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 28, 2015 at 11:25 am

Seriously? People in Palo Alto DO help the poor. The city helps the poor (look at the reduced utility rates for the poor).

Not much money is spent on this nice campaign. It received a $500 stipend. If that is a problem, I would gladly donate toward campaigns like this. In fact, I could have sewn a large stuffed donkey to help with the cost.

The point is goodwill. Goodwill is an attitude. We need a little more of this in Palo Alto and the surrounding area.

Like this comment
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of another community
on Apr 30, 2015 at 10:50 pm

[Post removed.]

2 people like this
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Green Acres
on May 1, 2015 at 12:10 am

I agree this is really cute and people should lighten up.

On the other hand, my first thought was to take him to the Maybell Orchard before the trees are bulldozed....

Like this comment
Posted by Valley Girl
a resident of another community
on May 1, 2015 at 11:33 am

Years ago I bought my little sister a donkey just like Perry only Susie was aqua colored. Lighten up, with everything that is happening in the world today. This brings a smile to your face, its a cute idea and much better than violent protests where people and property get hurt or damaged. Don't take life so seriously, you only go around once and enjoy it. $500. is nothing compared to the cost of other city projects. Besides it will probably bring people out to see the real donkeys. I know I will probably see if I can take my grandchildren to see Miner and Perry.

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 1, 2015 at 12:10 pm

This reminds me of the days back in elementary school when the classrooms had a guest stuffed animal to take on trips to foreign parts.

Only trouble was it became a competition on who could take it to the most exotic location and have the toy's picture taken at the Eiffel Tower or Great Wall of China. Those who never had these trips felt that they could not compete.

I hope that Perry goes to see some of the young patients in the local hospitals suffering from devastating health issues, seniors in local homes who rarely get visitors, and the homeless in shelters.

If it turns into another opportunity to show off wealth and achievement, it is a bad idea.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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