‘Vote for Holly!’ Meet the cheerleaders of Fat Bear Week

‘Vote for Holly!’ Meet the cheerleaders of Fat Bear Week

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Christy NaMee Eriksen discovered Fat Bear Week during her “Summer of Bears.”

There were carnivore sightings successful her vicinity successful Juneau, Alaska, that summertime of 2020, including 1 that took immoderate cocoa from her garage. She didn’t mind. In March, she had mislaid her father, “who was a precise larger-than-life benignant of guy,” she says. The bear, successful a way, reminded her of her dad. “So I commencement calling him Pop due to the fact that helium was conscionable ever around,” Eriksen tells The Verge. Later that year, she adopted a canine who happened to beryllium named Bear. 

“It felt similar a poetic invitation”

“And past I came crossed Fat Bear Week, and I was like, ‘It is my summertime of bears’ … it felt similar a poetic invitation,” says Eriksen, a writer. Currently, she’s besides a “Fat Bear Week correspondent” penning stories for the Anchorage Daily News astir this year’s matchups. “[The Fat Bear Week website] boasted record-breaking information and 747 Bear Force One easy flew past [Bear] 856,” she wrote successful the Daily News yesterday, announcing the victor of the archetypal matchup. “The crippled thickens contiguous arsenic immoderate of the biggest booties of Brooks Falls travel retired to play.”

In a nutshell, Fat Bear Week is simply a March Madness-style popularity contention for Katmai National Park’s now-famous brownish bears. It got its commencement successful 2014 arsenic a amusive mode to beforehand the parkland and its bears. Since then, the lawsuit has grown into thing of a pop civilization phenomenon. The yearly bracket contention culminates successful a apical carnivore being crowned connected “Fat Bear Tuesday,” taking spot connected October 11th this year. Devoted fans run for their favourite bears, making their lawsuit done passionate pitches and run posters successful Facebook Groups that enactment progressive year-round. Fan-favorite bears adjacent person their ain Fandom pages

Fat Bear Week 2022 Bracket

Fat Bear Week 2022 bracket

Image: Katmai Conservancy / Katmai National Park and Preserve

The tourney is meant to observe healthy, abdominous bears. They request the bulk to get them done a wintertime of hibernation. The bears’ lovable lumps person helped immoderate of their loyal fans done pugnacious times, too. In return, fans bring their emotion of bears with them offline to stock with their families, astatine work, and adjacent into immoderate of life’s biggest milestones.  

Andrea Bacino, a children’s librarian from Northglenn, Colorado, besides discovered Fat Bear Week successful 2020 portion she and her household were stuck astatine location during the pandemic. “I was moving from location and trying to support the kids entertained,” says Bacino, a ma of 3 boys. She tuned into the “Bear Cam” unrecorded watercourse of Katmai National Park. “Being capable to ticker quality connected a unrecorded camera, you consciousness similar you’re traveling a small bit. You besides get a small spot of the calm that comes from being successful the woods.” 

A fastener  with a photograph  of a ample  brownish  bear, Otis, that reads “OTIS FOR FBOTUS.”

A run fastener Andrea Bacino made for Otis.

Image: Andrea Bacino

By 2021, Bacino was a full-blown Fat Bear instrumentality campaigning for her favourite behemoth that year, Otis. She made run buttons astatine the room for him. “OTIS FOR FBOTUS,” the buttons read, with FBOTUS lasting for “Fattest Bear of the United States.” For the past mates years, she’s created a Fat Bear Week “experience zone” astatine the Anythink library, wherever she’s the younker services guide. It’s got 1 laptop acceptable up for watching Katmai’s livestream of Brooks Falls, wherever the brownish bears travel to chow down connected salmon. There’s different laptop for voting, immoderate printed-out accusation astir wherefore it’s truthful important for the bears to plump up, and run posters for immoderate of the apical contenders. That includes Otis, a four-time champion whose poster this twelvemonth reads, “an eater you tin trust.” 

When Otis won the tourney past year, Bacino baked carnivore cookies to celebrate. “I can’t accidental they came retired looking precise bear-shaped,” Bacino says. “They decidedly looked chunky.”

“I can’t accidental they came retired looking precise bear-shaped... They decidedly looked chunky.”

“I bash emotion Otis,” Bacino says. But this year, she hasn’t rather made up her caput astir who she’s rooting for the most. “Also, you know, I place with the mama bears who are raising cubs,” she tells The Verge

Her oldest lad is seven, and aft the contention comes to a close, she’ll support the Fat Bear Week speech going with him passim the remainder of October and into aboriginal November. “It gives maine a small spot of an accidental to speech to him about, ‘Oh, there’s inactive bears out, and they haven’t each hibernated yet’ — having a small spot of that speech astir clime change, it’s staying warmer aboriginal successful the year.” It’s a small acquisition successful origin and effect, she hopes. “What we bash impacts the water, and that changes the fish, and that changes the bears,” she says.

Eriksen is campaigning for 1 of Katmai’s astir celebrated mama bears this year, Holly. Holly’s had respective litters implicit the years, and her astir caller cub went disconnected connected its ain this spring. That near Holly escaped to unrecorded “a bachelorette’s beingness this summertime [that] afforded her the accidental to ore connected her ain needs,” Holly’s authoritative biography for Fat Bear Week reads.   

But here’s a pro tip: immoderate of the bears’ champion descriptions travel from fans. Jo Ely, a schoolhouse societal idiosyncratic successful St. Louis, Missouri, wrote a opus for Holly past twelvemonth to the tune of Abba’s “Dancing Queen.”

Ely’s mentation of the opus goes: “She tin food / She tin combat / Having the clip of her life / Oooo, spot that carnivore / Watch that country / Diggin the abdominous carnivore queen.” Holly was a champion successful 2019 and is looking similar a beardown contender again this year. 

Ely says she got her penchant for penning parodies from her older brother, who she remembers listening to “Weird Al” Yankovic portion they were increasing up. When her member officiated her wedding successful 2020, helium incorporated Jo’s emotion of abdominous bears into the ceremonial — acknowledging Ely’s hubby for supporting her “when she’s rooting for abdominous bears connected the internet.”

Ely won a Fat Bear Week bracket contention arsenic portion of a Facebook Group for fans past year. The victor got to take which foundation would person the wealth earned from the $10 buy-in to enactment successful the competition. Ely chose Katmai Conservancy, the nonprofit enactment that partners with Katmai National Park and Preserve and online portal Explore.org to enactment Fat Bear Week together. 

This year, the Facebook Group has gotten excessively large to clasp the foundation bracket. It presently has 27.7 1000 members. But it inactive has that assemblage feeling, members archer The Verge. And immoderate fans person taken it upon themselves to proceed the contented by starting their ain brackets. Eriksen’s got a tiny foundation bracket going successful Alaska. She’s asked for $10 to $100 donations to bargain in, and the wealth volition spell toward buying section salmon that volition beryllium fixed to a section stateless shelter.

Philanthropy aside, Eriksen has nary qualms astir utilizing her penning for the Anchorage Daily News to run for Holly this year. “I don’t privation to unfairly sway folks (cough, 435 Holly) but I’d emotion to spot (cough, 435 Holly) immoderate of these fabulous abdominous females (cough, cough, 435 Holly) find their mode to the crown, for illustration 435 Holly,” she wrote earlier this week. 

“I don’t justice connected the rubric by fatness alone. For me, it’s that main quality vigor that I’m truly looking for. What is their abdominous story? Holly has a precise abdominous communicative astir motherhood and care,” Eriksen tells The Verge. Holly adopted an abandoned cub backmost successful 2014 and raised it alongside her different cubs. That has peculiar meaning for Eriksen, she says, who’s not lone a ma herself but has besides written astir being a Korean adoptee. “As we presumption the bears and arsenic we archer their stories, I deliberation it says a batch astir who we are,” Eriksen says. “What we attraction astir and worth and ballot connected metaphorically.” 

You tin ballot successful Fat Bear Week each time until October 11th astatine https://explore.org/fat-bear-week.

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