South Charlotte

A bear with fashion flair

A large bear is standing on its hind legs just steps away from the door of Bob and Betsy Hall's home on Lansdowne Road.

No one seems alarmed because they know the bear means no harm. It's carved out of pine and clad in a pink bathing suit.

This is one bear with sartorial flair.

The Halls estimate they have as many as 40 outfits for the bear representing seasons, holidays and special occasions, whether they're familiar or obscure. Most of the clothes are from secondhand shops.

The Halls' bear has become a conversation piece and focal point for the Lansdowne neighborhood.

Residents and other passers-by stop to admire the bear's latest theme. Some leave tokens of gratitude. Offerings have included clothing for the bear and even a bouquet of artificial flowers. It's not unusual for someone to want to be photographed with the bear.

Adults and children alike react to the bear.

Bob Hall, 76, says a police officer told him he makes a point to see how the bear is dressed so he can radio other officers. A parent once wrote an anonymous note saying, "Thank you for making our rides to preschool each day so much fun."

The 100 or more trick-or-treaters the Halls greet at Halloween delight in checking out the bear, which might be decked out as a mummy or witch.

"We're like an amusement park almost," said Betsy Hall.

Betsy Hall, 61, bought the bear as a birthday gift for her husband 11 years ago. The couple was living in Ruidoso, N.M., where chainsaw art is popular.

Betsy says the artists who create the wooden animals vary in skill, but she thinks the one who made her bear did a good job and recalls paying $500-$600 for it.

Maintaining the sculpture requires work. The climate is wetter and more humid here than in New Mexico. The bear occasionally needs repair from exposure to moisture. It's treated with a water-sealing product every six months or so.

With her artistic eye, Betsy Hall acts as bear stylist, finding low-cost accessories. She has a makeshift bridal outfit for the bear consisting of a white shirt and tulle skirt, but a real wedding gown is on her wish list.

Enjoying the bear is a family affair. The Halls' grandchildren in Minnesota like seeing it when they visit and also receive pictures of it in various modes of dress.

What does the bear think of the attention? It had no comment.