The Bear Project
New Bern was settled in 1710 by Swiss and Palatine German immigrants led by Baron Christoph DeGraffenried. The new colonists named the settlement after Bern, the capital of Switzerland and hometown of their leader. Many years before New Bern was settled, Bern, Switzerland was founded by a group of hunters who named the city after the first animal they came upon on their hunting expedition… a bear. “Bern” is the old Germanic word for bear and the bear became the symbol of the city. The bear symbol was passed along to Bern’s sister city, New Bern, and still serves as the city’s mascot with bear flags and statues featured throughout the town.
New Bern celebrated its 300th Anniversary in 2010 by hosting a variety of festivities. In honor of the anniversary, over 50 fiberglass bears, sponsored and adopted by local businesses, were situated throughout the city. Once local businesses chose to sponsor and adopt a bear, a year-long process began which included selecting a local artist to design the bear’s theme, and designating a display location for the bear. Originally 50 bears were erected and since then more than 20 additional bears have been created and positioned at various locations throughout the city.