CHATHAM – It's pretty obvious that this is New England Patriots country, especially during football season.
Even now, however, that devotion can be seen in, of all things, bidding on the Sharks in the Park. One of the art exhibit's five-foot sharks that sports a Patriots theme has the highest bid of any of this year's 60 sharks. In fact, it has the highest bid of any shark in the history of the event.
With several days yet to go before the auction ends Friday at noon, the shark – with the Patriots' logo on one side and portraits of its greatest players and Gillette Stadium on the other – painted by artist Pati DuVall had a bid of $4,000. The shark is sponsored by Samantha's Hair Studio.
Coming in a close second is the Lilly Pulitzer shark, created by the Lilly Pulitzer Print Studio, with a bid of $3,550. The third highest bid is for Pine Acres Realty's shark painted by artist Steve Lyons at $1,850. In last year's auction, Lyons' shark pulled in the top bid at $2,650.
Overall bids were running about $10,000 ahead of last year's total, said organizer Janice Rogers. Seventeen of the sharks had bids of $1,000 or more as of early this week.
This is ostensibly the final year for Sharks in the Park. It's the fifth summer the Chatham Merchants Association has sponsored the exhibit. The group has voted to move on to a different type of display next year – a display to be named later, so to speak – but Rogers said Sharks in the Park has been so popular this year that she, for one, would support continuing it.
“It's been insane,” she said. Each day since the exhibit began June 15, 200 booklets with biographies of the shark artists have been placed in a box with the exhibit on the front lawn of the Eldredge Public Library. At the end of each day all of the booklets are gone. “We published 5,000 booklets and there are just a few left,” said Rogers, adding that at any given time there are as many as 50 people wandering among the sharks. “I've never seen this many people,” she said.
Many people say they come back each year to the see the sharks and want to see the exhibit continue, she added.
“There's always a chance,” she said. But along with a change of mind by merchants board members, the return of the sharks may depend on whether a location for the display can be found. The sharks were moved to the library from Kate Gould Park this year, but with a major reconstruction of the library's front lawn area due to begin in the fall, that location may not be available next year.
The visibility of the library location probably helped draw more people, Rogers said, and along with better lighting, definitely made the sharks more secure from vandalism. One attempt at theft was captured on video early in the season, but the only other significant incident occurred last week when three men bent the metal poles of one shark so that it was lying on the ground. That appears to have been a simple case of vandalism, not attempted theft, she said.
As of early this week, all of the sharks have bids, Rogers said. “This is the first time they've all had a bid going into the last week,” she said. “They're doing pretty well.”
Last year's auction earned $62,461, which topped previous year's auctions. Half of each bid goes to the artist; the remaining money is used by the merchants association to fund its other events, such as Christmas by the Sea and Oktoberfest, as well as for scholarships for local students.
Bidding at sharksinthepark.net ends at noon Friday. Sharks will be available to pick up after 5 p.m. that day, Rogers said.