Last summer, several fiberglass cats were "Cat'n Around in Catskill" in Greene County. They were such a hit that not only did 62 of the fabulous felines return to the village's Main Street this summer, but Hudson in Columbia County got into the act and entertained 62 "Best of Show" dogs on Warren Street.
"They've engendered such a feeling of warm and fuzzy in the community and in visitors," said Daniela Marino, the director of Greene County's Department of Tourism. "They've increased tourism, and merchants report they've had more traffic than in years. We've even got press from New York City to California."
There's a catch, however. The cats are departing in late September to prepare for the Cat's Meow Auction and Gala on Sept. 21. The dogs, too, will leave on Oct. 8 to prepare for their Dog Gone! Auction Gala on Oct. 12.
Until then, the cats, which are a bit larger than life, can be seen perched either sitting or standing on steel pedestals along both sides of Main Street and Bridge Street in Catskill. The dogs, which are about 25 inches tall and resemble a kind of terrier, are in similar poses along almost the full length of Warren Street in Hudson.
They are wonderful to look at. Artists, most of them from the local counties, used much imagination and humor to colorfully decorate and name their creations.
Who can resist Cynthia Mulvaney's "Cat'n Hook" in pirate garb with a patch over his eye, a parrot on his tail and a hook for his right paw? And the cat "A Starry Night in Catskill," for which NJ Wheelock must have spent a fortune on bugle beads in swirling patterns of stars and moons on a midnight blue background. Other cats have scenes painted on them or are dressed in tuxedos, chef hats or have wings.
The dogs, too, are marvelous.
Katie Pesano glued hundreds of small buttons to her fiberglass dog and named him appropriately "Buttons." Darcie Cristello put her doggie in overalls with tools and a dog bone in his pockets and named him "Handyman's Best Friend."
Some dogs were themed according to who their sponsor was and others were just fanciful.
"Van Gogh, Dog Go!" has a portrait of Van Gogh on his back and the painter's "Starry Night" on his chest.
The idea for the initial cat display came from Linda Overbaugh of the Heart of Catskill Association after she visited Saratoga Springs one summer and saw the fiberglass horses, Marino said. When she put the word out to seek sponsors from the area businesses, the response was overwhelming.
A fee of $500 covered the cost of purchasing the fiberglass form, shipping, clearcoating the form and a small stipend for an artist to purchase materials.
Artists responded by sending in sketches of ideas. Sponsors then chose the design they wanted. Artists also received 25 percent of their animal's auction price, which last year garnered almost $100,000. Some cats went for as high as $5,000, Marino said.
This year, the procedure was similar, except Columbia County's Council on the Arts received more than 115 artist sketches, and so many businesses wanted to sponsor a dog that the council had to initiate a cut-off date or it would have had more than 100 dogs, said Tricia Di Gregorio, executive assistant.
"The dogs have worked really, really well," she said. "It's good for the locals, many of whom wouldn't go up town to look in the galleries. They are digging the public display."
The cat gala/auction begins at 1 p.m. Sept. 21 at the Catskill Point Park at the end of Main Street; the dog gala/auction begins at 1 p.m. Oct. 12 at Club Helsinki on Columbia Street in Hudson. Proceeds go to local animal charities and artists' scholarships.
Of course, the cats and dogs aren't all that's in either town. Catskill's quaint Main Street has several antique stores, galleries, home furnishing and gift stores, eateries - including a Thai restaurant - and coffee houses. The farmers' market is every Saturday at the lovely Catskill Point Park on the Hudson River.
Hudson, which is on the east side of the Hudson River, is a bigger metropolis with more than 30 antique dealers, 27 art galleries, restaurants, the Museum of Firefighting and a wealth of 19th century architecture. It was also a former processing center for the whaling industry.