Bears come out of hibernation for 'Bears on Parade'


December 30, 2009
LINCOLN-WOODSTOCK–While tourists in the area are keeping their eyes out for local wildlife, they may see bears in many local businesses that will have them looking twice as part of "Bears on Parade."

Of course the only business in these two towns where one can see real bears is Clarks Trading Post, but 24 fiberglass bears that stand 36 inches tall are making their appearance in other local businesses. Each business will custom paint its bear, which along with the other bears will participate in a float during the July 4 parade and be auctioned off next November, with the proceeds to benefit the Lincoln-Woodstock Chamber of Commerce.

While sponsored and presented by the Chamber, Bears on Parade is the brainchild of Tertia Cote, who owns the Nordic Inn along with her husband, John. She modeled the parade after similar events in other communities, such as the famous Cow Parade in New York City, or the first Cow Parade in the United States, which was held in Chicago.

"When we heard about it, we thought, 'why not Lincoln-Woodstock?'" said Alyssa Yolda, of the Chamber.

With Cote's help the chamber approached many local businesses, eventually getting 23 of them to sign onto the project, which she thought was a good number considering this is the first time and that each bear costs $425. The plan is to hold this festival every other year, she said.

While there are 23 businesses signed on, there are 24 bears. Cote got an extra.

Most of the bears will be inside to protect them from the elements, though some may elect to keep them outside, Yolda said. There will be no charge for people to visit the businesses and bears—the idea is to gain exposure for as many businesses as possible, she said.

There will even be bear stamps people can collect, getting a different stamp from each bear and business.

The tradition of animal figure parades started in Europe and has since spread to small and large American communities. Other towns that have held them are Manchester, Vt., whose theme was moose, and Belfast, Maine, which like Lincoln-Woodstock had a bear theme. Halifax, Nova Scotia, in keeping with its maritime connections, chose dolphins. New London held the Gnus of Gnu London.

In larger communities business even sponsor artists to paint their figures, though that isn't likely in the Lincoln-Woodstock area, Cote noted, except perhaps a handful of large businesses. The bears themselves are a sizeable investment, about $425, plus the costs of paints. It's not likely many would hire an artist on top of that, she said.

"Most people will paint them themselves," Cote said. Still, she thinks it's a good investment, about the cost of an advertisement in a map, she said.

Cote said when she first brought up the idea locally people looked at her as if she were a little strange, as most had not heard of such an idea.

"Unless you see it you don't understand it at first," Cote said.

The bears will coming out of hibernation Jan. 15 and be visible in area businesses. The Chamber is guaranteeing a "beary" good time.

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