CHATHAM – After a flurry of last-minute bidding, this year's Sharks in the Park online auction netted a total of $72,004, topping the $62,461 raised last year by more than 15 percent.
The top shark went for $5,000, the highest ever, and nine went for more than $2,000.
“It's definitely an all-time high,” organizer Janice Rogers said of the auction total.
Bidding on the 60 shark sculptures, which have been on display on the front lawn of the Eldredge since late June, ended Friday at noon. A bidding war over the shark sponsored by Summer Sitters and painted by artist Tilda Bystrom in the last 15 minutes of the auction propelled to the top.
“That was a crazy amount of money,” Rogers said of the final $5,000 bid. The same bidder, she added, had the top amount for the second highest shark, a tribute to the New England Patriots painted by Pati Duvall and sponsored by Samantha's Hair Studio. That shark went for $4,050.
Sponsored by the Chatham Merchants Association, the Sharks in the Park art display has now run for five summers, and although the group has said that this would be its last, Rogers and others are hoping it will continue, given its popularity, and the fact that the auction total has climbed steadily each year.
“The enthusiasm was tremendous this year,” she said. “I think overwhelmingly people would like to see the sharks again.”
The big question, she added, is where the sharks could be displayed in future years. Originally they were in Kate Gould Park, but that proved problematic in terms of security; several sharks were stolen over the years. This year the display started and ended at the library, where there was the opportunity to installed a higher level of security. No sharks were stolen this summer, despite a few attempts that were caught on security cameras (which also caught a couple of coyotes wandering around the exhibit last week; that video can be seen on The Chronicle's website).
But the library plans to rebuild its front lawn area starting this fall to improve access and upgrade the landscaping, so use of that location is probably out for next year. Rogers said the merchants will be providing a monetary donation to the library to cover the cost of reseeding the front lawn, which gets pretty trampled by the thousands of people viewing the sharks.
The top five bids for this year's sharks were Summer Sitters by Tilda Bystrom, $5,000; Samantha's Hair Studio by Pati Duvall, $4,050; Lily Pulitzer by Lily Pulitzer Print Studio, $3,550; Pine Acres Realty by Steve Lyons, $3,055; and Chatham Wind and Time by Jerry Evans at $3,050. Full results of the auction can be found at www.sharksinthepark.net; all 60 sharks were sold, quite a few to people who have purchased several in the past, Rogers noted.
Rogers noted that half of the money goes to the artists, while the rest is used to fund the festivals and activities sponsored by the Chatham Merchants Association, as well as a scholarship. She thanks the artists, the sponsors, the bidders and the trustees of the Eldredge Public Library for making this year's auction success.
Summer Sitters' shark, painted by Tilda Bystrom, led the bidding this year at $5,000.