It's a Beary Sad Day in Brookings, Oregon. It was a sad day in Brookings Tuesday - the day they took the bears away. Residents and visitors alike have fallen in love with the 25 colorfully-painted bear statues since their arrival three months ago at various outdoor locations in downtown Brookings. Obviously the feelings are mutual, evidenced by the makeshift signs that mysteriously appeared on the bears during the final weekend.
The signs included heartfelt messages such as:
• "Don't you bear take us away"
• "There must be a bear clause that says we can stay"
• "We bearly got to know you"
• "I'm hybearating here. Leave me alone"
• "Brookings will be bruined without us"
• "Chetco Ave. will be bear without us"
The pleas fell on deaf ears Tuesday morning as Grants Pass Evergreen Federal Bank employees Adam Coleman and Richard Duncan placed the bears on a trailer and the back of a pickup and take them back to Grants Pass. The 25 bears, a second or third generation from those originally created in 2003 for a BearFest celebration in Grants Pass, came out of hibernation in October to help celebrate BearFest in Brookings. The visit was made possible by negotiations between Evergreen Bank President Brady Adams and the bank's Brookings branch manager John White.
Evergreen donated one of the bears to Brookings-Harbor High School, which uses a Bruin as mascot. And Tuesday marked the end of a silent auction at the Brookings branch in which Brookings resident Carolyn Milliman won with a $777 bid on "Starbright Bear," a twin to the one given to the high school. "Evergreen is going to match that $777 and then make the total amount $2,000," White said Tuesday. The money will be donated to the Brookings-Harbor Community Helpers Inc. Food Share.
During the three years of BearFest bear celebrations and auctions in Grants Pass, the bank has raised more than $300,000 for non-profit agencies. More than 60 downtown businesses participated in the Brookings BearFest celebration, enjoying additional foot traffic as residents and visitors visited stores to enter the drawing for a $1,000 shopping spree. The winner submitted an entry form at all the businesses and identified the bear tagged with "I (heart) Brookings."
White said his company believes that small businesses are the backbone and character of a community, and that the excitement created by the bears contributes to that character and builds customer loyalty. Melissa Vierra, Evergreen's bear organizer, said that Adams came up with idea of the bears after seeing a similar display of cows in Chicago sponsored by businesses. "We could do that," he said.
Vierra explained that getting the first group of bears created was a difficult chore. "We had to make them from scratch, do research, make our own molds and get the artists," she said. "We did it to promote tourism and raise money for non-profit groups."
Sad about the bears' departure, many people in town have talked about establishing a similar promotion in Brookings. "We've talked about it, bounced it around, but Grants Pass businesses paid for the first bears and some cost as much as $10,000," said Brookings-Harbor Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Les Cohen said. Chamber members, Cohen said, who had the responsibility for keeping the bears maintained during their visit, realize what a great draw it has been. However, he said that the chamber couldn't do it alone. "It should be addressed by the city's urban renewal agency," he said. "We're willing to sit down at the table."
Pete Chasar, chair of the Brookings Urban Renewal Agency, admitted that he was at first lukewarm about the idea. "But I was very impressed seeing them on the Art Walk and seeing the public reaction," he said. Chasar said the urban renewal committee members will be meeting on Thursday. In conversations around town, people have noted that although bears are appropriate in the light of the Brookings Bruins, it wouldn't have to be bears. Suggestions included whales, salmon and even newts. Perhaps, if the conversation continues, something good will happen.
In the meantime, all agree that the bears have been great guests, and Evergreen management has brightened Brookings with the visit of the bears. Those who missed seeing the bears can see them in their native habitat - a display at the 23,000 square-foot Bear Hotel, 2101 N.E. Spalding, in Grants Pass, Oregon. "There are tours daily and lots of things to see," Vierra said. She suggested that visitors call for an appointment, 541-479-3155.
Courtesy of Marge Woodfin, Pilot staff writer