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Park District Dish: Who let the bulldogs out?

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Katie Drum, director of marketing and public relations for the Batavia Park District, takes a photo with a statue from the 2011 Bulldogs Unleashed project. Bulldogs Unleashed 2.0 officially commenced Aug. 11.[]

If you are either a longtime resident of Batavia or you have just recently moved to the area, you are likely well aware of the colorful parade of bulldog statues proudly displayed throughout the city. They are hard to miss as they loyally guard favorite haunts in the downtown vicinity and are a popular commodity for those seeking fun selfies among Batavia locals and tourists alike.

These statues, each uniquely painted by a local artist, are the product of the 2011 Bulldogs Unleashed fundraiser and public art exhibit that was spearheaded by the Batavia Parks Foundation, the Batavia Library Foundation and the Batavia Foundation for Education Excellence in an effort to raise funds for each of their organizations. Local businesses and residents had the option of buying the dogs outright or bidding on them at auction. Overall, the fundraiser was a huge success, nearly doubling the collective’s expectations.

“It was wonderful. The funds generated for the library allowed us to complete big projects, such as installing charging stations, updating the sound system and bringing the Lyceum Series to the library, which is free for the public [to] attend,” Batavia Library Foundation President Dee James said.

Similar to the library, funds that went toward the parks foundation allowed the Batavia Park District to expand park amenities, such as the Space Net at Engstrom Family Park, the purchase of hardware for the disc golf course at West Main Community Park, and fund community outreach through the scholarship program.

Because of that success, which ultimately benefits the community, the three organizations have decided to join forces once again for Bulldogs Unleashed 2.0, which commenced on Aug. 11 at Water Street Studios.

Steve McKenna, president of the parks foundation, is particularly excited for the return of the project.

“The bulldog is an iconic representation of Batavia,” he said. “This fundraiser really benefits everyone. It’s great seeing the energy and involvement from the schools, library and parks. It drives a lot of activity and interest in our downtown area and brings cross sections of our community together.”

Joanne Spitz, a community volunteer and former chair for the Batavia Foundation for Education Excellence, said the fundraiser had a lot of momentum in 2011, and she is thrilled the project is starting even earlier this year. She is already seeing a lot of interest from the public, local artists and businesses.

“We heard feedback that some people were disappointed that they missed the opportunity to get involved back in 2011,” she said. “Now they have that opportunity again. I know we can do it bigger and better this time. Everyone in our organizations gets along really well, so it’s a lot of fun.”

The new bulldogs will be on display throughout Batavia from Memorial Day through Labor Day 2018, and the project will conclude with an auction and community celebration in September 2018.

For information on how to sponsor a bulldog, apply to be an artist or volunteer your time with any of these organizations, visit www.bulldogsunleashed.org.

Katie Drum is the director of marketing and public relations for the Batavia Park District. The “Park District Dish” column runs the second Thursday of each month in the Kane County Chronicle. Contact Drum at editorial@kcchronicle.com.