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At the corner of Main Street and Bozeman Avenue spins a fiberglass exception to an obscure city ordinance.

The white stallion standing on its hind quarters above Bangtail’s storefront is a unique, beloved and rotating landmark of downtown Bozeman that has garnered fans nationwide since it took its place in front of the Country West store sometime in the 1960s.

But, as City Commissioner Eric Bryson’s effort to bring barber poles into the fold revealed, moving signs run afoul of the city’s sign ordinance. As Bryson told the Chronicle last week, the “swirliness” of barber poles has forced barbers across the city to keep their distinctive electric signs turned off, since city code prohibits them from moving.

However, while Bozeman’s favorite horse does indeed twirl, city officials won’t soon be shutting it off in the name of city code.

The sign rule has been in place since at least 1990, but the stallion well predates the ordinance, according to a history of the statue compiled by Chad Groth. Groth is a member of the Gallatin Masonic Lodge No. 6, which owns both the horse and the building to which it is bolted.

According to his research, the fiberglass equine first came to Bozeman on loan from the Billings Neon Company sometime in the 1960s. Western shop Country West paid $60 per month for the horse, which over the years spun a bigger and bigger fan base.

When Country West closed in 1997, Bozeman feared it would lose the stallion.

The Crystal Bar offered the Billings owners $10,000 for the statue, Groth wrote, but the offer was declined.

The saga caught some national media attention, but ended well: The statue’s owner sold it to the Masonic Lodge for $700, said member Ted Williams.

The stallion faced another challenge in 2000, when a late-night reveler partook in the illicit tradition of climbing up the side of the building and riding the horse.

“Yet another climber climbed on it, and pulled the whole horse down and broke it,” Williams said.

A crowd formed, and the culprit disappeared into the May night. The cost of repairing the statue, which had been split down the middle and wrenched from the “mechanism that causes it to turn,” ran $24,000, Williams said.

But as a testament to the spinning equine’s popularity, donations from people across the country who heard about the statue they fell in love with while visiting Bozeman helped the masons cover repair costs.

And, as the September grand opening of Bangtail showed, the fact that the thing rotates endears many to it. The company held a “start-up-the-horse raffle,” where people spent $1 for the chance to flip the switch that makes it turn.

Assistant Planning Director Chris Saunders told the Chronicle that the horse is grandfathered. And the City Commission is slated to look into whether Bozeman should have more spinning signs — including barber poles — at its Monday meeting.

Meanwhile, Williams is proud to announce that the horse, which has gone by informal monikers ranging from “the spinning horse” to “the white stallion” in the past, now has a name: Jubalee.

Daniel Person can be reached at dperson@dailychronicle.com or 582-2665.

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