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Story Last modified at 12:25 p.m. on Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Organizers go wild with Bear Paw 2012
Downtown Eagle River to be a jungle next summer

Alaska Star

Although Bear Paw 2011 is only a recent memory, it's never too early to start planning next year's floats.

But to do that – among other things – event participants and organizers need a theme to plan around, and on Monday, the Chugiak-Eagle River Chamber of Commerce announced it had picked its theme for the 2012 festival.

"Friday we came to the definitive, definitive answer," said chamber special events director Merry Braham.

The theme will be "It's a Jungle Out There," which Braham said should give people plenty of unique ideas for new floats.

"We just thought it sounded kind of fun," she said.

Braham had the final say on the theme, but she said dozens of people were actually involved in coming up with the idea.

"It's not usually just one person," she said.

She said several themes were discussed – including a superhero theme and one involving the construction industry. In the end, she said she likes the choice because it gives people lots of room for creativity.

"The jungle theme is pretty broad," she said.

Braham said the theme needs to be somewhat broad because it must attract festival-goers of all ages.

"It has to appeal to everyone from a 5-year-old to a 95-year-old," she said.

Deciding on a theme at the beginning of August – nearly a full year before the mid-July festival – might seem like a lot of advance warning. But Braham said it's helpful to have a theme decided on early because there's so much work to do between now and then.

"It's nice to have the theme settled as soon as we can," she said.

With a theme decided on, Braham said the chamber can now start looking at logo possibilities and letting big sponsors know what to expect for next year. Plus, it gives those who love Bear Paw something to start dreaming about.

"It gives me something to look forward to," Braham said.

Now that a theme is settled on, Braham said the next step is to find someone to help create a logo, which she said she expects to happen this fall.

"I'd like to get the new one designed real soon," she said.

The 2012 Bear Paw will be the festival's 27th year. Braham said the idea to have a "theme" for the event actually dates back to the mid-90s. Before that, a commemorative Bear Paw pin was issued, but there was no theme. Since 1996 ("Fun under the Midnight Sun") the chamber has come up with a yearly theme to guide the festival's direction and help set the tone.

"It just makes it more fun," she said.

Contact Matt Tunseth at 694-2727 or

Bear Paw themes, 1986-2012

1986 – Original – Painting bear – design by Shirley Mauldin

1987– "Happy Days" Banner Bear design by Shirley Mauldin

1988 – "Rolling on the River" canoe bear

1989 – Climbing Mount Baldy!

1990 – Bi-Plane Bear

1991 – All Aboard! Railroad Bear

1992 – Up, UP and Away – hot air balloon

1993 – Mush!

1994 – Fun in the Sun Roller Blading Bear

1995 – 10th Anniversary Celebrating Bear

1996 – "Fun under the Midnight Sun"

1997 – "Preserving the Past with our Eyes on the Future" – Golden Dreams do Come True (50th Anniversary of the US Air Force)

1998 – Paratrooper Bear (Army theme)

1999 – "Happy Trails"

2000 – "Back to the Future"

2001 – "A Bear Odyssey"

2002 – "Bears on Broadway"

2003 – "Bear Paw Rocks & Rolls"

2004 – "American Dreams"

2005 – "Hog Wild"

2006 – "Hooked on Bear Paw"

2007 – "Pirates of the Bear-a-Bean"

2008 – "Barnum & Bearly – Under the Big Top"

2009 – "Excalibear & the Knights of the Paw"

2010 – "Groovin' on Bear Paw for 25 Years"

2011 – "Operation Bear Paw"

2012 – "Bear Paw – It's a Jungle Out There!"

This article published in The Alaska Star on Wednesday, August 3, 2011.