The Democratic convention wasn't the only thing that caused a stir in Boston this summer. After declaring bankruptcy, the FAO Schwarz toy company abandoned its Back Bay store along with its 12-foot, 3-ton bear outside on the corner. The fate of the landmark, which was dedicated in 1991 and then rededicated in 2003 to the children of Boston, touched off an outcry rivaling that of threats to the famous Citgo sign in Kenmore Square.
"The bear belongs to the children of Boston," Mayor Thomas M. Menino declared at a press conference. "The children of Boston should decide where the bear goes." Thus began a month-long campaign to find the city's beloved bear a new home. (In other cities, the massive bronze or fiberglass statues have been auctioned off to private bidders.)
More than 7,000 children from 34 states and five countries submitted their suggestions in the form of drawings, e-mails, faxes and phone calls. One child sent in a photo of himself with the bear and a note that read, "Please let me take the bear home with me." Another thought the bear belonged in the zoo with other bears. When his mother explained the bear wasn't real, he replied, "That's what you think." Some cynics suggested it be put on the moon or thrown in the harbor.
Nevertheless, by late August officials had narrowed the competition down to three finalists: Franklin Park Zoo, Boston Children's Hospital and the Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts-New England Medical Center. Structural engineers then visited each site to make sure it was child-friendly, had public and handicapped access, and could physically accommodate the bear. As of mid-September, however, a decision had yet to be made on the winning location.