The Horses on Parade statue that pays homage to 9/11 police, fire victims is hoped to be fixed by Sept. 11

ROCHESTER — A familiar sight for highway travelers in downtown Rochester, the rearing statue of a horse painted in stars and stripes, was vandalized recently.

Known as “Freedom,” the installation was purchased by the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce at a charity auction in October 2001, with funds going to the families of the New York City firefighters and police officers who sacrificed their lives on Sept. 11, 2001. It stands atop the median of I-490 between the exits for Culver Road and Winton Road.

On Tuesday morning, the vandalized horse was removed in partnership with the city of Rochester, Department of Transportation, Rochester Police Department, and AP Enterprises, which picked up Freedom free-of-charge. Together the group brought the horse to the original artist, Robert Whiteside, to be restored.

Freedom will be back in place in the coming weeks, in time for Sept. 11. Lauren Dixon and Mike Schwabl of Dixon Schwabl will pay for the damages to be fully repaired.

Greater Rochester Chamber President & CEO Bob Duffy said, “While we were dismayed to learn of the vandalism of the Freedom statue, we are incredibly grateful to Lauren Dixon, Mike Schwabl, and the entire community for coming forward to oversee its restoration. It’s important that we restore this monument to honor the legacy of service and sacrifice that it represents.”

The Horses on Parade public art initiative was conceived by Dixon Schwabl nearly 20 years ago. There are nearly 200 painted horses across Rochester from Horses on Parade, and the campaign raised over $1 million for charity.

Dixon Schwabl CEO Lauren Dixon said this is a very special horse.

"It made me sick when I first saw the vandalism. I’ll never understand why someone would do this," Dixon said in a statement. "We should be expressing acts of kindness and not acts of destruction. I’m grateful to the City of Rochester, Department of Transportation, Lieutenant Waldo, Robert Whiteside, AP Enterprises and everyone who has played a role in getting Freedom back. It’s been an incredible team effort, just like Horses on Parade was 20 years ago. We don’t want people seeing the vandalized horse anymore on 490 and we’re all working together to make this right.”