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The catamount figure that will be the star of the Catamount Prowl in Bennington in 2013 is unveiled Thursday in Old Bennington. The prowl is planned to be like Bennington’s MooseFest events, with about 50 similar statues, decorated by different artists, on display downtown.
Photo: Patrick McArdle / Staff Photo

Catamount Prowl art festival set for 2013 in Bennington

BENNINGTON — Following on the hooves of two successful MooseFest events, the Catamount Prowl will bring street art to Bennington next year in the form of a catamount statue unveiled Thursday.

Like MooseFest, hosted in Bennington in 2005 and 2009, the Catamount Prowl will feature an estimated 50 copies of the same statue throughout the downtown and most likely beyond. But like the moose statues, the catamounts will be unique because each will be decorated by a different artist.

“We all know street art works. This is our third street art project. We’ve had MooseFest and then PaletteFest and then another MooseFest, and by all indications, when you have things out on the street, large, fun things with eyes ... it does bring the tourists. It gets them out of their car,” said Lindy Lynch, chairwoman of the festival for the Bennington Area Chamber of Commerce.

The fiberglass catamount sculptures were created by Patrick Keough, of America’s Fiberglass Animals in Nebraska. Keough also created the moose figures that were used for each MooseFest.

Lynch said a local events committee suggested switching from moose to catamounts to have “a little bit of a change.”

But while the statue and namesake may change, Lynch said many other elements would remain the same between the Catamount Prowl and MooseFest.

“We know we have a formula that works,” she said.

The catamount statues, as they will appear throughout the festival, will be unveiled May 22 and the final gala and an auction of the statues will be held in October 2013.

Between now and the unveiling, Michelle Hogan and Susan Coons, chairwomen of the artists committee, are looking for artists who will decorate the catamounts and sponsors who will pay for and display the statues.

For MooseFest, artists created a variety of statues, from making one moose a semi-motorcycle with a sidecar to creating moose based on pirates, hippies and Santa Claus. Hogan said she hopes artists for next year’s festival will “push the envelope and make this cat shiny and sparkly and bright.”

“We really want this to be a project that people are going to come back and talk about for a long, long, long time,” she said.

Coons, who is decorating the first catamount, said it will reflect the four seasons of Vermont.

The word “catamount,” which comes from the term “cat of the mountains,” is used to describe a member of the cougar family of large cats that live in the wild such as mountain lions, wildcats or bobcats.

Their connection to Bennington dates back to their use as the unofficial mascot of the Green Mountain Boys, who met in the Catamount Tavern in Old Bennington. Thursday’s unveiling took place in the shadow of the catamount statue that has long stood on Monument Avenue in Old Bennington and marks the former site of the tavern that was built in 1767.

The first 50 catamounts are scheduled to be in Bennington and ready to be decorated by November. Artists interested in decorating one can look for information on the website Lynch said the information hadn’t been posted Thursday but was expected to be on the site by today.

The chamber is also looking for volunteers to help the Catamount Prowl with tasks like moving the statues.

Lynch said that when the festival gets closer, agencies like the chamber and Better Bennington Corp. will have maps available showing where all the catamounts can be found.


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