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Published: 9/26/2007

Artsy critters raise funds for Oregon

There is no need to fear the raccoon guarding Mayor Marge Brown's office in Oregon. The raccoon, well-dressed in black and white stripes and captive in a mini jail cell, is part of the fun and fund-raising in Oregon's 50-year celebration.

Mayor Brown paid $250 for the "Burglar on the Bay," created by the Oregon Police Dept., at last week's critter auction. The auction, held at Oak Shade Grove, was the grand finale for the 50 raccoons that have been in a social whirl since they arrived in the city.

The 40-pound critters were toted to anniversary events, including a parade, an ice cream social, and the picnic and auction where 26 were sold to the highest bidders.

At the start of the raccoon project, sponsors paid $750 for each sculpture before it was painted. Of the 60 raccoons, 34 were not in the auction; their sponsors had paid another $750 to keep them. While many of the auctioned critters will be taken hither and yon, most of the keepers will be on display in Oregon. They are truly works of art in an impressive combination of creativity and community pride. The $10,000 raised at the auction and other fund raisers will be given to the Alzheimer Day Care Center at the Eastern Lucas County Lutheran Home.

No, I did not buy a raccoon though I qualify as a professional shopper, an ardent auction fan, an animal lover, and a collector of everything from otters to whales. Plus, I have nine gardens at the Farm House, and a whimsical raccoon statue would improve any one of them.

Until better judgment took hold, I almost bid on Roxie Emblem, designed and signed by Jan Pugh of Packer Creek Pottery in Genoa. The acclaimed artist painted the raccoon (sponsor: Mr. Emblem) in a vivid pink with delicate floral detail. It would have been perfect in my red and pink garden under the maple tree. When the bid on Roxie quickly jumped to $525, I put my hand down just as quick.

The bidding arm also twitched when several critters designed by local art students came up for bids. Paulette Pallet was one of three examples of critter artistry done by Clay High School art students. Paulette was splashed with colorful paint blotches on a white background. The students are also credited for C. Crossing Guard, a road-crossing guard painted with a safety vest and yellow mask (sponsor: the Oregonians) and Wiz, designed as a magician to express the magic teachers work in classrooms (sponsor: Oregon Federation of Teachers).

The art competition also involved imaginative designs by Owens Community College Child Care Development Center, Lourdes College art department, and St. Ursula's art department.

When Rivalry, a red and blue raccoon (sponsor: National Bank of Oak Harbor), brought the highest bid of $950, Donna Ebert, was ecstatic. Ebert, a bank employee and part-time artist, spent 52 hours working on the detailed design that salutes the Ohio State-Michigan football rivalry. Ebert did not take sides but divided the raccoon equally with motifs representing the teams.

Cute city icons are not new:Chicago has cows; Maumee, fish; Tiffin, squirrels; Toledo claims frogs, and in Aiken, S.C., horse statues are all over town. Eagles, Clay High School's athletic team logo, didn't make the cut, Mayor Brown said. Neither did deer when she and the Oregon council were deciding which animal would best represent their city. How can you make deer cute, she questions?



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