Catamounts coming to Bennington in May
By Patrick McArdle
STAFF WRITER | January 14,2013
BENNINGTON — Later this year, the streets will be lined with big cats but a preview of the Catamount Prowl and a reminder of the good it’s expected to do can be seen now outside the offices of the Bennington Area Chamber of Commerce.
A Fiberglas catamount statue is on display outside the chamber’s Route 7A building with moose statues from the Moose-Fests in 2005 and 2009 just next to it. More than 30 catamount statues will be spread throughout downtown Bennington this spring and summer for the Catamount Prowl, a successor to the previous outdoor festivals.
Like the first MooseFest, which featured moose statues, and the second, which featured a moose family of father, mother and calf, the Catamount Prowl will place similar statues all over town as a draw for tourists. All of the statues will be cast from the same mold but individual artists will decorate them so no two are the same.
The statues will be on display in time for MayFest on May 25.
Over the last few weeks, more and more of the statues have been delivered to Bennington so the artists can begin working on them and Michelle Hogan, chairwoman for the artistic aspects of the Catamount Prowl, said she is seeing a lot of creativity.
“I’m seeing a lot of different mixed media. I’m seeing a lot of interesting designs. I’m seeing a lot of different textures. People are using different varieties of paints and different kinds of techniques that we haven’t seen before,” she said.
Hogan said there are also a mix of artists who participated in the MooseFests and first-timers from Bennington and Rutland as well as New York and Massachusetts which should give this year’s display of animal statues some new looks.
A special program took place at the Vermont Arts Exchange in North Bennington earlier this month to introduce artists to various techniques for painting the statues to keep them looking good while they’re on display outdoors.
For Bennington residents, however, there are two reasons to look forward to the Catamount Prowl. Some look forward to seeing a variety of colorful, creative pieces of art and others look forward to more visitors in a time when the economy is still struggling.
P.J. DeVito, the visitor services coordinator is often the first person tourists see when they come to the chamber’s building looking for local information. She said visitors were responding to the statue of the catamount.
“The visitors who have been here prior when there were moose are excited that we’re bringing something back again. They’re like, ‘Oh, we’ll be back,’” she said.
Joann Erenhouse, executive director of the chamber, called the moose and catamount statues the “gathering of the animals.”
“We’re starting to feel like Doctor Dolittle,” she joked.
Businesses have been encouraged to come up with products or special deals which will appeal to the visitors who come to enjoy the statues, Erenhouse said.
“We’re doing this for everybody in town. We’re doing this to boost the economy. We’re doing it to have fun and engage the public. We have an idea and a product and an artists’ endeavor and a street gallery, so to speak. Let’s have fun with it. If you want to make catamount bow ties, do it,” she said.
The Catamount Prowl has a website at www.catamountprowl.com.