Bears will be Tahoe’s symbol this summer |

Bears will be Tahoe’s symbol this summer

Amanda Fehd

Jim Grant / Tahoe Daily Tribune / Harveys Resort Casino employees Wayne Iwaskiewicz, right, and Frits Buyten load a bear into a truck for delivery to the casino on Friday. The bear will be painted by Aaron Hagar.

Tahoe’s bears are going to have a little company this summer.

Fifty life-size replicas of the burly beasts will move in on South Lake Tahoe starting May 17, after receiving top-notch makeovers from area artists.

The cast of characters will include an Elvis bear, butterfly bear, scenic Tahoe bear and a big bad motorcycle rider bear. They’ll greet visitors at businesses, the Heavenly Village and Ski Run Boulevard all summer long.

It’s all for the sake of promoting Tahoe and its bears, and harnessing the creativity brought out by public art projects, said event organizer Patrick Kaler, executive director of the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority.

The event follows in the footsteps of several cities that saw the success of Chicago’s summer of 1999 Cows on Parade. Organizers said 1 million visitors came to the city just to see the painted bovines, and an auction of the art projects that fall raised $1.2 million.

Since then, San Francisco sported hearts one summer, Sacramento paraded lions and other cities donned cranes, wheelbarrows and frogs.

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Artists started picking up their bears Friday. Judy Arrigotti, an El Dorado Hills-based artist, has created several animals for several cities.

“It’s great fun to use an animal as a canvas,” she said. These events promote the arts in general, the artists themselves and are good publicity for the town, she said.

The big beasts don’t come cheap though. Each bear needed a sponsor to commit at least $2,000. Kaler has raised $160,000 in sponsorships and grants, with major help from two title sponsors: real estate company All About Realty and mortgage broker Nevada Funding.

The art projects will be auctioned at the end of the summer, with all proceeds to benefit area youth organizations and animal-care and advocacy groups.

The bears are made of fiberglass by a Chicago-based company called Cowpainting. After they receive their makeovers, they’ll get a durable lacquer coating and be sent to their posts throughout the city.

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