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Easthampton residents, businesses can share a bear

Although Bear Fest 2012 ended in September, two colorful fiberglass bears are decorating the downtown. The two bears were donated to Easthampton, and officials said they will now be migrating around the city, wherever storefronts, sidewalks or lawns need a little brightening up.

Kevin Maloney, who splits his time between homes in Easthampton and northern Virginia, donated the bears after he purchased them at the Sept. 20 fundraising auction that was the culmination of the summer-long Bear Fest exhibit.

He purchased “Artist Bear,” created by his wife, Juli Kirk, for $800, and “Dia Del Oso Muerto,” by Lyell Castonguay and Carand Burnet, for $775.

“Artist Bear,” now located at the Old Town Hall at 43 Main St., holds a painting, paint brushes and a palette. The Day of the Dead-inspired bear, decorated in traditional Mexican style, is in the city’s Pulaski Park in the Main Street rotary.

“I think it’s a great idea,” Maloney said of the plan to rotate their locations. “It’s a wonderful event.”

Mayor Michael A. Tautznik said the donation allows city officials to bring to life an idea they had been discussing that would make a bear or two available for residents or businesses with high visibility to display.

Easthampton City Arts Plus Coordinator Burns Maxey said she and other city officials are still hammering out how the bears’ homes will be selected and what the requirements for hosting a bear will be.

They may be in one place for a month at a time, or for a whole season, she said. “This gives us the opportunity to move the bears to indoor locations when it is snowing and outdoor locations when the weather is less inclement,” she said.

Easthampton Savings Bank also donated a bear to the city. “Stuart Bear” now sits in the Municipal Building in honor of his namesake, former city planner Stuart Beckley.

— REBECCA EVERETT

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