The Red Coat Suspects: Who’s Responsible for the Umbrella Girl’s Holiday Wardrobe Change?

Columbus Monthly investigates the mysterious tradition in German Village’s Schiller Park.

Dave Ghose
Columbus Monthly
The Umbrella Girl statue in Schiller Park in German Village is dressed in a red coat in this file photo from December 2019.

It’s one of German Village’s most beloved traditions. When the weather gets colder in December, someone puts a festive red and white coat on the Umbrella Girl statue in Schiller Park. There’s no precise routine to it. It just happens one day early in the month. But when the outfit arrives, it provides a jolt of joy to the neighborhood—a playful, charming and quintessential German Village moment.

It’s also resulted in another custom: speculating on who’s responsible for the costume change. One German Village insider recalls being called out by a friend. “One day, you’re going to find me rummaging through your closet, and I’m going to find that damn coat,” the friend said.

With all that in mind, Columbus Monthly decided to investigate. We didn’t dig through any armoires, but we did ask around, ignoring a warning from a knowledgeable source to be careful where we tread. “This is a huge secret,” the source said. “If you learn it, your teeth may fall out or some other dire event may occur. … Just remember: You’re playing with fire.”

Well, we didn’t find a smoking garment. And even if we did, we might keep it to ourselves—dental implants are expensive! But we do have a list of suspects, some more credible than others.

Katharine Moore

She’s one of German Village’s most involved citizens, who’s held prominent leadership roles with the Friends of Schiller Park and the German Village Society. Why wouldn’t her influence extend to dressing up a statue?

David Gaumer

The owner of the German Village landscaping business Garden Bouquet is one of the most devoted “Deadheaders,” the gardening group behind Schiller Park’s Huntington Garden. He spends many hours every year in the park beautifying its flower beds, giving him opportunity (and motivation) to decorate the statue.

Joan Wobst

If anyone would want to keep the Umbrella Girl warm, it would be the statue’s “mother”—the sculptor who based it on her daughter Andrea “Andi” Wobst-Jeney.

A Stewart Alternative Elementary School teacher

The Umbrella Girl is practically an honorary student at the school across from Schiller Park—and no good teacher would ever let a child spend time outdoors in December without a jacket.

Andrea Cambern

She’s lived in Santa Barbara since 2012, but the beloved former Columbus TV anchor considers German Village her favorite place in the world. And it makes sense that a broadcast journalist would come up with a gimmick so irresistible to TV news people (and magazine writers).

The Ghost of Fred Holdridge

He and his partner, Howard Burns, were German Village dignitaries for decades, but Holdridge was also the neighborhood’s most notorious prankster, who once planted a tree in the middle of Beck Street to draw attention to a pothole problem. Why should a little thing like death stop him from having some fun with his fellow German Villagers?

This story is from the December 2022 issue of Columbus Monthly.