Students of Blue Ridge Community College clear coat bears that are then placed in locations around downtown Hendersonville.

Hendersonville Tradition Supports Blue Ridge Collision Repair and Horticulture Students

Feature Photos (in Collage): Students of Blue Ridge Community College clear coat bears that are then placed in locations around downtown Hendersonville.

By: Benjamin Rickert
Marketing & Communications Dept.

In May, 20 new “Bearfootin’ Bears” were revealed by the Friends of Downtown Hendersonville, and Blue Ridge Community College had a special role in this year’s tradition.

Prior to their placement along Hendersonville’s Main Street, all 20 life-size bear statues were given a protective clear coat finish by Blue Ridge’s Collision Repair and Refinishing Technology program students. Additionally, one special bear was commissioned by generous donors to raise funds for the College’s horticulture program.

Each year, local artists are commissioned to create detailed artwork on bear figures purchased from the Friends of Downtown Hendersonville. The latest works will be auctioned this fall with proceeds benefiting a number of area charities, including the Blue Ridge Community College Educational Foundation.

Protecting a Tradition

This spring, students and faculty of Blue Ridge’s collision program had a secret to keep; they were among the first to see all 20 of the highly confidential Bearfootin’ Bears up close. The bears were brought to Blue Ridge’s automotive refinishing lab as part of a partnership with the Friends of Downtown Hendersonville.

Led by program leader Brian Foster, students applied two layers of automotive-grade clear coat finish to the bears to shield them from the elements. The activity not only helped to weatherproof the artwork against rain, sunlight, and heat, it also served to teach students important vehicle repair techniques that they’ll use in their future careers.

“Clear coating the curves and contours of these bears was a more intricate process than, say, the flat part of an automobile,” explained Foster, “and so it was definitely an opportunity to hone their application abilities. All of the first- and second-year students from our collision and repair class participated in this effort.”

Foster also stressed the importance of community service.

“I wanted our students to experience this opportunity to give back to the community and be inspired in this way,” he said.

A collision program open house takes place June 1 from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. in the College’s Spearman Building located on the Henderson County Campus.

A Bear for Blue Ridge

On Main Street and 2nd Avenue, one Bearfootin’ Bear depicts an agricultural scene surrounding a depiction of Blue Ridge Community College’s future automated greenhouse. Painted by local artist and Blue Ridge Community College instructor Rachel Vera, it was commissioned by committed college supporters Dennis and Victoria Flanagan.

“The bear is an elegant representation of the horticulture industry in North Carolina, made possible by a wonderful couple who has tremendously supported our students’ goals for the horticulture industry,” explained Trina Stokes, executive director of the College’s Educational Foundation. “The painting depicts a greenhouse and the rolling hills of an orchard. It’s a scene that speaks to anyone who grew up or lives here in Henderson County’s beautiful apple country.”

The bear’s name is “Hortense,” a French feminine name derived from the Latin word for gardener. The artwork pays tribute to the various agricultural techniques passed down through generations in Western North Carolina.

In October, Hortense will be auctioned off alongside the other bears, and the proceeds will support the work of the College’s horticulture program. Community members may also purchase the bear before bidding takes place for a minimum of $10,000.

“The Flanagans understand the power of following their passions and passing along the love for farming and agriculture through many generations,” Stokes added. “Their hope is that Hortense will support the learning made possible through Blue Ridge’s upcoming greenhouse, as well as inspire the next generation of green industry leaders.”

Information about Blue Ridge Community College’s horticulture program is available at, and information about the Collision Repair and Refinishing Technology program is available at