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Grants Pass benefit 'bear' auction roars to record

GRANTS PASS ' The Wild, Wild Bear Auction of 21 Fiberglas bears in September was wildly successful ' breaking a city fund-raising record at &

36;175,000.

Twenty-one local nonprofits were the big winners as the fantastically painted faux-bruins went for &

36;160,000 in just three hours of bidding. The rest came from sponsorships and gifts.

The larger-than-life bears were part of a summerlong public art display up and down Sixth and Seventh streets.

The first bear (Riverbear by Tommy Drake) went for &

36;5,000. I thought that was really good, said Brady Adams, Evergreen Federal Bank president and the brains behind the BearFest Bears.

— Then the next one (Bearforce One by Gabriel Lipper and Kevin Christman) went for &

36;10,000 and my jaw hit the floor.

An additional &

36;10,500 was raised through non-refundable bids from local businesses that hosted the bears on their sidewalks.

Gifts and a silent auction for a handmade quilt bearing images of the bruins rounded up the remaining &

36;4,500.

It's the biggest single fund-raising event in Grants Pass history, said Adams.

Local nonprofit groups such as Wildlife Images, Lovejoy Hospice, Gospel Rescue Mission and the YMCA will reap the benefits.

Almost 1,500 people crowded into a sweltering Grants Pass High School gymnasium for the auction on Sept. 27, when the valley was experiencing a heat wave.

Adams said the heat did not wilt the crowd and almost everyone stayed until the last bear was bid.

One bear went for &

36;12,500 (Bloomin' Bear by Vicki Magallon), said Adams. The last one (Fiberoptic Lighting), a fiber-optic bear, went for &

36;9,500.

Adams says BearFest will be back next spring with 30 bears and 30 cubs painted by local artists.

This was a much greater success than I had expected, said Adams.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 776-4497 or e-mail .