New book details locations of Boyertown community mascots
The Bear Fever arts project that has swept through the Boyertown area over the past decade has become a source of pride for many residents, and a new book by Mary-Lew and Jay Renninger will help fans pinpoint exactly where each of the 70 bears are located.
The community arts project began in September 2003, when Boyertown residents Jane and Paul Stahl were inspired by similar large-scale, fiberglass art installations in cities like Washington, D.C., and Chicago. According to bearfever.org, a website dedicated to the bears, the Stahls thought that using the school district’s mascot to pepper the local lansdcape with original art works was an excellent way to promote community identity and collaboration, as well as highlight the area’s talented artists.
The new book titled, “A Bear-y, Bear-y Boyertown,” started as just a “fun” project last fall to find all the bears and determine how many there actually are, Mary-Lew said. Soon it became apparent that a book detailing the locations and basic facts about the bears, such as the name of the bear and artist, could be useful for other fans of the project.
Mary-Lew, a retired school teacher and Bally resident, then contacted officials at Building a Better Boyertown, who directed her to Jane Stahl at Studio B. Stahl encouraged Mary-Lew to pursue the book and served as a mentor throughout the process.
The Renningers said they pretty much worked around the clock for two months to hunt down the bears, photograph them, record information and, finally, publish the book.
“Some of them are a little tricky to find,” they said, but armed with a GPS, the pair tracked down all 70 bears located throughout Boyertown and surrounding communities. “So many people are shocked that there are that many bears.”
The result of their efforts is a 71 page, spiral-bound book that provides an up-close look at the community mascots, some of which are located on private property, making them difficult to visit. The book also includes and easy-to-read map of the bears throughout Boyertown.
The project has given Mary-Lew and Jay the inside scoop on many of the bears. For example, Mary-Lew said that the bear now housed at the Historical Society and known as “Nostalgia Bear” used to be located at the old Bonanza dinner where the pair would eat with their grandchildren. Today, there bear is covered in vintage postcards.
Their favorite bear is “Hal Bear-toia,” located at the National Penn Bank branch in town. Within the checkered, bronze and copper bear is a chair designed by the iconic, local American artist Harry Bertoia. She also had an opportunity to talk to some of the Bertoia children, who are artists in their own right and have contributed their skills to decorating several bears throughout town, including the “Hal Bear-toia,” in a tribute to their father.
“I was incredibly impressed by how nice people were and how helpful they were and how excited they were about the potential of seeing all the bears in one place,” Mary-Lew said.
Mary-Lew, who says photography and art have always been hobbies of hers, shot the photos with her Nikon D80. She said she was “excited but terrified” as the book neared final production; however, her fears turned out to be unfounded as final result has received a lot of positive feedback from the community.
“That was kind of one of the things we had hoped – that it would be a community builder. And I think it is. People love it, I think, for that reason. It’s all of us,” Mary-Lew said.
“A lot of people like the idea that someone actually did this,” Jay said. “It thrills us when people call [to say how
“We did it together, which was fun,” Jay said. Mary-Lew agreed. “I think it brought us closer together,” she said.
The Renningers will continue to work with Building a Better Boyertown to promote their book and the bears. For example, Mary-Lew plans to take part in a walking tour of the bears in Boyertown during the Coming out of Hibernation celebration held annually.
The books are available for purchase at local businesses throughout the area, including the Crown Card and Candy Hallmark Shoppe in Gilbertsville, the Shoppes at Bally Brooke on Route 100 in Bally, Finishing Touches Hair Salon in Bally, as well as directly through the Renningers by calling 610-702-2375 or emailing Mandaroses@yahoo.com. Other local businesses interested in carrying the book can contact Mary-Lew or Jay at the above number.