It remains unclear whether a bronze Percheron might someday gaze out on Moorestown's business district, but a park honoring the breed of gentle workhorse now seems nearly certain.
The nonprofit group Friends of Percheron Park reported that it raised an estimated $50,000 at a fund-raising gala on Tuesday, and that landscaping for the little park could begin this fall.
A life-size statue of a Percheron, if it comes, "won't be standing in mud," publicity chair Julie Maravich said Wednesday. "If the township gives us final clearance, we now have enough to start the paving and hardscaping."
The centerpiece of the open-air cocktail party was a raffle for a new Fiat 500. The group sold all 350 of the $100 raffle tickets in advance of the drawing, said Maravich, with the grand prize going to Nell Pettit of Sewell.
Pettit was not present for the drawing, but when host William Burris, who donated the car, called her with the news, he put his cellphone on speaker so that the crowd could listen in on her gasp of surprise.
Founded last year, Friends of Percheron Park had raised about $37,000 prior to the raffle and party, which was held on Burris Construction Co.'s front lawn, a few doors from the proposed park.
Immediate plans call for a paved 75- by 60-foot pocket park on the corner of Main and High Streets, with benches, a retaining wall, and plantings.
It was to Moorestown that Percherons, the nation's most popular breed of workhorse in the 19th century, were first imported to America from France in 1839.
The group hopes to raise about $100,000 more for the commissioning and casting of an approximately seven-foot-tall bronze Percheron modeled on paintings of the stallion Diligence, among the first brought to Moorestown and the nation by township resident and gentleman farmer Edward Harris II.
Considered the founding father of American Percherons, Diligence sired more than 400 foals whose descendants pulled the plows that broke open much of the Midwest in the century that followed.
A park in honor of the breed is the dream of longtime resident and horsewoman Margo Foster, who began seeking a site about seven years ago.
Moorestown Township acquired the site, a former gas station, about two years ago after the structure was razed because of ground pollution. The plot is in remediation.