MILFORD - Eighteen artists brought their decorated bear sculptures to the Old Lumberyard Shops in Milford Saturday as this year’s warm-up for the Black Bear Film Festival got underway. “The festival is getting off to a good start,” said Carol Bowman, the festival’s director of volunteers services. Afterwards the bears were transported by volunteers and set up in front of businesses that paid $500 to get a bear and help support the film festival. On Oct. 13 the bears will all be displayed again in front of the Milford Theater with an auction to be held on the following Sunday. The bear auction is the main fundraiser for the festival and its community projects. “I made two bears this year. One I am buying and the other is going to be donated to Bon Secours Hospital in Port Jervis,” remarked Bowman. She continued, “The bear for Bon Secours is the Bear Blossom Bear.’ It has many small bears on it which visitors who cannot afford a gift for someone will be able to pluck off and give to a patient. The hospital is setting up a fund to replenish the small bears.” “This year it is bigger and better and we continue to grow. We get more and more people involved in the process. We have 18 bears this year and we try to expand to as many craftsmen and artists as possible,” said Geoff Pitcher advisory board member. For the first time Dingman Valley High School has an entry in the Bear Festival. Amanda Eddy Segal, a 17 year old DVHS Junior has been a volunteer in the festival since 2001, created her own bear sculpture the “Saint Ursula Bear.” Segal convinced the festival directors she could make a nice bear and sketched out her idea which she submitted for approval. “I chose Saint Ursula because she was the Patron Saint of students and young women,” Segal told the Courier. Port Jervis High School entered the festival for the first time this year. Sarah Bosioe, Mandi Smith, Hope Schreiber, and Melanie Decker all worked together to come up with the idea for their bear. They were going to make a humanity brotherhood bear and after they primed the bear white they changed their minds. “The bear just looked like a Polar bear and so we decided to make a surfing polar bear and we named him “Beach Bum Bear,” said Bosioe.” She went on to say it took them about two and a half weeks to finish the project. Julia Samuels, another first time artist, got involved when she read an article in the Courier about the festival. “I saw an ad that said there was still two days left before the deadline to enter the festival. I had no idea what I was going to do. I thought about it and came up with a sketch for my “Rhinestone Cow Bear” and it was accepted,” she said quite exuberantly. “I made my bear almost identical to my sketch.” “The 18 bears are all beautifully decorated and this is the largest collection of bear art we have ever had,” said Nancy Pitcher, executive director of the festival. The Old Lumberyard was a frenzy of activity and was crowded with visitors, photographers, news reporters, volunteers, and artists all caught up in the moment and excitement of this special event. The decorated bears will be on display around town and a map of where they are being placed can be had at www.blackbearfilm.com or by calling 570 409-0909. The film schedule for the October 12 to 15 festival will be released in the beginning of September.