Article & Photos by Jacqueline Bennett newsandviewsjb

It's "Raining Cats and Dogs" around artist  and Jane Garibay, Executive Director of the Windsor Chamber of Commerce. surrounded by

It’s “Raining Cats and Dogs” around artist Phyllis Stargardner and Jane Garibay, Executive Director of the Windsor Chamber of Commerce.

The hunt is on!

A whimsical scavenger hunt for fancifully decorated statues of cats and dogs got underway April 15 in Windsor, Connecticut. It is part of the “Raining Cats and Dogs” public art exhibit and fundraiser to benefit two non-profits, the Windsor Education Foundation (WEF) and Windsor Chamber of Commerce (WC of C). The hunt continues through to May 20 and the winner will pocket $500. The month long hunt leads up to an auction of the animal art to be held on May 23, 2014 at historic Grace Church. And, some of the animals will be featured in a calendar.

“Anyone can participate – residents, non-residents, in-state, out-of-state,” Jane Garibay, Executive Director of WC of C, explained during an interview at the chamber office on April 14.

Garibay co-chaired the project with Paula Pierce, who is a member of  WEF and the WC of C.

Decorated by area artists using designs chosen by the twenty-three sponsor businesses that purchased the molds for the creations – or should that be creatures – these cats and dogs can be found at their temporary homes throughout town. Anyone is welcome to participate in both the hunt and upcoming auction.

‘Hunters’ need to obtain and fill out a  hunt card, available at the chamber office on Broad Street in Windsor Center, or other spots, then visit the sites where the cats and dogs are currently on display. Next they must find correlating numbers and submit the completed card to be eligible for the cash prize.

Lia Ernest, 9, was on the "Raining Cats and Dogs" hunt, April 14 at the Windsor Connecticut Chamber of Commerce office.

Lia Ernest, 9, was on the “Raining Cats and Dogs” hunt, April 14 at the Windsor Connecticut Chamber of Commerce office.

Nine-year-old Lia Ernest, on spring vacation from school, was already on the trail of the cats and dogs and stopped by the chamber office with her mother to find the animal on view there.

“I like seeing the different heads and bodies,” said Lia.

If she wins the money, Lia plans to buy an I-Pad and donate some back to WEF. According to her mother, Lia hopes next year to join the 5th grade Challenge Club which helped decorate one of the animals.

Among the dogs is one which is an homage to Bradley International Airport in neighboring Windsor Locks. Another, named Sirius, was purchased anonymously with the stipulation that artist Phyllis Stargardner have the freedom to decorate it as she desired.

“I got to be creative,” said Stargardner, who is also an administrative assistant for the WC of C.

Artist Phyllis decorated sirius.

Artist Phyllis Stargardner decorated Sirius.

It all began back in January with a cheese & crackers social where interested businesses bought their animal mold. The large ones cost $1,000 and the smaller ones $500.  It is the second time the chamber has been part of organizing this type of public art display and auction, the first time was four years ago.

“It’s a big project, transporting the molds and getting the sponsors,” said Garibay.

015That initial art display was strictly dogs.  However, this one was expanded.

“People love their animals and a lot of people are cat lovers,” she said.

Carrie Choiniere, a vet tech for Dr. Larry Pennington stopped by to pick up the dog sponsored by Windsor Animal Clinci.

Carrie Choiniere, (right) a vet tech for Dr. Larry Pennington, stopped by to pick up the cat sponsored by Windsor Animal Clinic from Jane Garibay.

A heartwarming story has emerged from the project Garibay also noted. ING put out a call for in-house artists and the woman who was selected decorated hers in memory of her father who was lost to illness. Upon learning this, fellow ING employees started a memorial fund to benefit others afflicted with the illness.

John Waiveris is another artist who said he enjoyed getting creative for the project.  He decorated Tech Cat with computer-controlled lights, sponsored by the partnership of PC Development, Hosting CT and Waiveris’ website building business called Invisible Gold.

Yet other statues were painted with clever sayings. On the cat sponsored by local veterinarian Dr. Larry Pennington’s Windsor Animal Clinic, it was proclaimed “A cat can purr its way out of anything.”

For some of the animals being on pubic exhibit is simply not enough. Apparently barking and meowing for more attention, some will become pin-up models for a calendar. Actually, participating businesses paid an additional fee to have their dog or cat featured in the calendar. Garibay and her husband Bernardo transported the chosen animals to the beach this past weekend where Bernardo photographed them.

Garibay expects the auction to be popular.

“Each animal usually goes for about $400. Last time we raised $20,000,” she said, adding that in addition to Connecticut, bidders turned out from New Hamphire and Massachusetts.

Some businesses bid on their own animal and then put them on permanent display. The auction includes a buffet dinner, tickets are $25 for adults and $10 for kids.

As well as being a terrific fundraiser Garibay said the public art exhibit and auction is a fun way to involve the community, put the spotlight on area businesses and raise awareness about the work of the WEF and WC of C.

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