Dining, dancing and catamount auction on tap at ‘Prowl'


BENNINGTON -- The Bennington Area Chamber of Commerce started forging the "Midsummer Night's Prowl" in January 2013 to continue the area's long-standing culture with street art.

The celebration and auction of the Fiberglas catamount statues is set for the Hubbell Homestead in Colgate Park on Vt. Route 9 on Saturday, July 19, at 6:30 p.m.

The party and the auction will both take place under a tent. The $50 tickets include food, drink and music. Patrons must RSVP by Tuesday, July 8, by calling (802) 447-3311 or by visiting www.catamountprowl.com.

Dinner will feature a "Taste of Vermont" by Thyme Tables Catering of Shaftsbury. Catamounts will be auctioned off after dinner, followed by dessert and entertainment by "The Standard Clams" band from Albany, N.Y. Dancing is encouraged.

The chamber started the street art auction concept with Moosefest in 2005 and revisited it in 2009. Like the moose, the 37 pumas that were requisitioned by the chamber this year were sculpted from Fiberglas at the Fiberglass Farm in Maine.

"The two times we put on Moosefest, people kept asking, what about a catamount? So finally, the third time around we decided we would do a catamount Because the catamount is the animal that is on Monument Avenue, that's kind of our mascot," said chamber member Michele Hogan.

Each of the cats is sponsored by a local organization or business. The sponsors each selected a local artist to help them develop a concept and paint the sculpture. Up until now, the cats have each been placed in visible locations or in front of their sponsor's business.

On July 19, each of the cats will be brought to Colgate Park and auctioned off by Manchester auctioneer Eric Nathan. A percentage of the proceeds will go back to the artist after the sale. The sponsors had first of refusal rights to buy back their catamounts by July 1.

Hogan said that the moose statues have headed out in all different parts of Vermont, New England and even as far as Colorado and California. She said there are all kinds of people that might want to bid on the catamount sculptures, from all over the place. The most a statue has ever sold for was about $17,000.

"It's people that are passionate about the animal; It's people that like art; It's people that want a lawn ornament; It's people that want a conversation piece. Those are the people that buy, and some people love them so much: They will buy one, two or three," Hogan said.

All of the previous buyers from Moosefest were invited back for the upcoming event. However, Hogan said the local economy isn't what it was last time the chamber did an event like this. Rather than setting a unanimous minimum bid for the catamounts, the minimum bids will likely be up to Nathan's discretion.

Chamber member Lindy Lynch said there is more energy this year into entertainment and food, than previous years of Moosefest. She said people should come to have a good time and to support local artists.

"Several people have no intention of buying a cat," Lynch said. "But, this is an opportunity at a very reasonable price to spend some time in Colgate Park."

Hogan said a lot of work and two years of planning went into the event, which can be stressful on the chamber. "In the chamber a lot of us are aging out, and there's nobody coming up in the ranks to help out We'll have to see where street art goes," she said. "Personally, I think the economy wasn't right to do this project. Other people thought this was the right thing to do."

Lynch said the funds raised at the "Midsummer Night's Prowl" will offset the chamber's budget, which is otherwise only maintained by membership dues. The auction proceeds go back into the chamber's event budget as seed money for the Garlic & Herb Festival in August and the Annual Bennington Car Show and Flea Market in September. She said she hopes to see all of the catamount sculptures sell and raise a decent amount of money, but was uncertain whether another street art auction will be pursued in the future.

"This year will be as good as any other," Lynch said about the Prowl. "But, it will never be as good as the first. The catamounts are unique and different: There is a new auctioneer, new venue and a new creature, but I'm looking forward to closure at the end of this."

"Pink," the catamount sponsored by the chamber, will be raffled off at the July 19 event. Raffle tickets are still being sold. Contact the chamber at the above number for more information. Visit http://www.bennington.com/ to see more chamber events.

Contact Tom Momberg at tmomberg@benningtonbanner.com. Follow him on Twitter @TomMomberg


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