Festivities kick off bear art project | TahoeDailyTribune.com
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Festivities kick off bear art project

Jim Grant / Tahoe Daily Tribune Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority executive director Patrick Kahler addresses community members at the CeleBEARtion ceremony on Wednesday morning.
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Within five minutes of showing up at the Black Bear Inn, a buxom fiberglass Tahoe bear started attracting a lot of attention.

Jerry Birdwell and Kevin Chandler, owners of the Ski Run Boulevard bed and breakfast, have watched since Saturday a steady stream of people staring at the painted bear named “Miss EmBEARald Bay” by local artist Janna York.

“Everybody who passes it has to touch it,” Chandler said, while attending the inaugural ceremony at Embassy Suites Wednesday that unveiled the tourism bear program called the CeleBEARtion.



Artists were commissioned to paint the bears as icons around the South Shore. In a group of about 100 people, many dignitaries including Nevada Lt. Governor Lorraine Hunt paid tribute to the artists and effort spearheaded by Leadership Lake Tahoe and managed by Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority.

“Without your talent, we’d have 50 naked bears around town,” LTVA’s Executive Director Patrick Kaler told the artists in the audience. Kaler got the idea from a similar program in Chicago that raised $1 million auctioning 322 cows and is estimated by the city’s Office of Tourism to have generated up to $200 million in revenue from the additional tourism – the lifeblood of the Tahoe economy.



Tourism officials hope the bears will bring the South Shore economy to life. Kaler brought the Windy City’s concept to his Leadership class, a program spawned by the South Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce to create civic and business awareness in the community.

York’s bear dawned with flip-flops, jewelry, lips the size of Angelina Jolie and breasts the size of Dolly Parton’s has certainly created a stir and a ‘beachy’ image of Tahoe to match the D-size lake.

Some motorists haven’t bothered to park off the street as they drive by – running up to touch the most protruding part of the fiberglass anatomy. It took York the full six weeks to build her – using “bondo” casting to strengthen the chest and painting the colorful rendition of the fun lifestyle in Tahoe.

“The fumes from the ‘bondo’ just about killed us,” she said during the ceremony’s luncheon at Harveys Lake Tahoe. When the weather was bad, she dragged the bear inside to work on it. When she painted in on her porch, neighbors would yell out: “Looking good.”

“It’s funny. They took ownership of it,” said York, who also commissioned to do “Pilot Air Bear” for Lake Tahoe Hot Air Balloons. A friend’s visiting baby even questioned where the bear went when LTVA’s crew picked it up. When Kaler referenced the artist’s attachment as an umbilical cord attachment, York joked she wanted the bear back.

Due to be auctioned off by mid October, the art displays have the signature of Tahoe life here all over them. The “Bad Bear of Lake Tahoe,” created by Pam Brekas, is a rendition of a Harley-Davidson motorcycle biker complete with chaps and rider patches that sits in front of the Horizon Casino Resort.

“At one point I realized not enough butt was showing. I had to repaint the area,” the Gardnerville woman said after the ceremony.

Stanley Veale and Denise Gardner, who painted “Canada Bear” that stands in front of Tahoe Fly Fishing Outfitters, said much of learning to use fiberglass as a canvas took a little “trial and error” to create the goose-like bear. Victor Babbitt, who runs the shop, said he liked the version because he goes duck hunting.

Other bears include: “Carmen BEARanda” by Donna Hughes; “Hog Heaven” by Judy Arrigotti; “Tahoma Bear” by Georgeme John; “StarBEAR-er” by Sheila and Mary Griffin; “TimBEAR by Caryn Hughes; “Tahoe Beach Bum” by Julie Nelson; “Beach Bear” by George Lemaitre; “Kandisky’s Muse” by Marc Alper; “Poppy Bear” by Jamie Cola-Bersamina; “The Bear in the Lake” by Evelyn Yonker; “Aloha Bear” by Bob Lopez.


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