ADDISON COUNTY — To the 150 animals squeezed into a space meant for 60 at the Addison County Humane Society, Wyatt Vincent is the cat’s meow.
For more than a month, the Vergennes resident has busied his paws building massive hay-bale animals around Addison County to raise awareness for the humane society’s “Homeward Bound Campaign.”
“I just wanted to draw attention and I figured (the animals would) be nice to look at,” Vincent said. “I had never built one before — it’s all new to me — and I’ve been trying to make them as realistic as possible.”
The humane society’s $1.12 million campaign seeks to raise an additional $300,000 this year to help pay for the expansion of the nonprofit’s Middlebury shelter with some left over for an endowment.
Vincent has volunteered for years on the Addison County Humane Society’s “Ruff Ride” — an annual bicycle and motorcycle fund-raiser. He joined the society’s event committee at the suggestion of Lynn Provost, who sits on the ACHS board. Vincent works at Dock Doctors in Ferrisburgh, which Provost co-owns.
Seeking to let people know that the humane society needed a monetary lift for its new facilities, Vincent came up with an idea: Build huge animal figures out of hay bales to accompany large campaign signs, which should be posted next week.
With help from his wife, Chris, and his brother Jason, it takes the Vincent trio eight to 10 hours to build one of these structures roughly 20 feet in length.
“For the last four to five weekends, I’ve had no weekends,” said Vincent. “I’ve been trying to build these between the weather, and now I’m racing against temperatures dropping.”
Shaded by a towering hay-bale cat head at the intersection of Routes 7 and 22A in Ferrisburgh, Vincent explained what goes into making the animals. His first step is to find a live subject, he said, displaying pictures of the dog and cat that the two figures sitting at this junction were modeled after.
Using Vincent’s own equipment and that donated by the Dock Doctors, the Vincent team rolls four to five round bales into place. The ears of the dogs and cats are crafted using chicken wire and tomato cages, and smaller square bales form the animal’s extremities. Vincent then uses an industrial paint sprayer to bring his animals to life.
“Each one I’ve tried to make different,” he said.
For the humane society, one of the advantages of Vincent’s work is that it’s completely free, which helps offset the cost of the campaign signs designed by Vermont artist Chris Young.
Vincent and his family have volunteered time, equipment and supplies. Farmer John Vanderwey of Ferrisburgh donated the hay, and Agway donated additional supplies like chicken wire and burlap. The paint was donated by Aubuchon Hardware in Vergennes, Distinctive Paint and Interiors in Middlebury, Countryside Carpet and Paint in Middlebury, the Addison County Solid Waste Transfer Station in Middlebury and Sherwin-Williams in Burlington. Dock Doctors also lent Vincent equipment for the project and gave him time to work on the animals.
In addition to the materials and equipment, local homeowners, businesses and town governments have given Vincent and the humane society permission to put these animals and adjacent signs on their property.
Right now Vincent’s animals are showcased at five locations around the county, and that number will likely grow, he said. There’s the dog and cat near the park-and-ride lot in Ferrisburgh, a cat at the First National Bank of Orwell’s Shoreham Branch, a dog and the cat a half-mile south of the Routes 17 and 22A intersection in Addison, a dog with its puppy at Rouse Tire Sales off Route 7 in Middlebury and the dachshund Hobbes at the junction of Routes 17 and 7 in New Haven.
The Hobbes figure pays homage to Bruce Zeman and his dog Hobbes, who do the “WVTK Wake-Up Crew” radio show on 92.1 FM. This week Zeman and Hobbes were raising funds for the Addison County Humane Society by playing listeners’ requests in return for donations.
Although he’s proud of his numerous hay-bale animals, Vincent does have a favorite.
“The one I’m most proud of is the one I did in front of Rouse Tire Sales,” he said. “I did it as a dedication to John (Rouse) for his dog that he had. Plus the humane society is right behind.”
For his part, Provost likes them all.
“I think they’re amazing,” she said. “I keep kidding him that he’s going to quit his job and head across country building hay-bale (animals).”
But Vincent seems like he’ll keep building these giant animals right here in Addison County.
“Watching the kids and seeing the smiles as we build these is so great. They yell out, ‘Awesome job!’” he said. “That’s the fun part — seeing the smiles on the kids’ faces.”
Reporter Andrew Stein is at [email protected]