SKOWHEGAN — So, you don’t like the sweater your aunt gave you this Christmas?
You say that tie from your cousin in Florida is a bit loud?
Not a problem.
Area residents are being asked to donate unwanted Christmas gifts to be auctioned off in March to benefit the Skowhegan Indian restoration project.
“It’s a great idea, it really is,” said Cory King, executive director of the Skowhegan Area Chamber of Commerce, which owns the 62-foot tall wooden sculpture. “When I first heard of the idea, three or four things immediately jumped to mind that I have received and would like to include in the auction, but I thought if it ever gets back to the people that gave it to me, I’m going to have a lot of explaining to do.
“But it’s also for a good cause, so I think I would try to talk my way out of it that way.”
King said the chamber still needs about $5,000 for the $65,000 restoration project. Work is set to begin this summer.
The Indian statue, made from carved sections of hemlock over a period of three years, was completed by the late artist Bernard Langlais as a tribute to local Indian tribes. Langlais, who grew up in Old Town, was a student and teacher at Skowhegan School of Painting & Sculpture. The sculpture was erected in 1969 off Madison Avenue behind what is now Cumberland Farms.
The auction, to be held from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, March 1, at the American Legion Post 19 on Waterville Road, also will feature gift certificates, household items, kitchenware, books, movies, toys, tools, and other items new and used. And they don’t have to be Christmas gifts.
The regifting idea is the brain child of Dugan Murphy, executive director of Main Street Skowhegan, a downtown revitalization group that is handling the fundraising for the restoration project and is accepting the donations at its Water Street office. He said the Main Street auction is part of the regular Luck of the Draw auction held monthly at the American Legion post.
The $2 admission to the auction comes with a sheet of 25 tickets. Additional tickets can be bought for $5 for a bundle of 10. Attendees are asked to place their tickets in any of several bins associated with the items that are up for auction. Tickets are drawn to determine a winner. The more tickets a person has in one bin, the better chance there is of winning, Murphy said.
“We’re starting our campaign to gather these auction items at the same time that people are cleaning up from Christmas, so I figured we could combine the effort and get some donations,” Murphy said. “I thought unwanted Christmas items typically would make good auction items — the kind of things that auction well tend to be the kind of things that show up under Christmas trees.”
Steve Dionne, a local building contractor, was hired in 2006 to spearhead the restoration effort, which now has a Facebook page.
The Indian’s original spear and fishing net have been removed from the sculpture and must be replaced, as does the statues’s right arm. Work has been done to cover holes in the main body of the statue, and a special solution was applied to the Indian’s legs, feet and other features to slow decay. The structure has a vertical steel beam secured to the 28-foot long concrete base and is stable, Dionne said. Paint samples were sent to a conservator in Virginia for analysis to duplicate Langlais’ original work.
Murphy said the unwanted Christmas gifts can be donated anonymously to avoid hard feelings.
“But if the person was gifted an item locally in Skowhegan and it’s a very recognizable item, then I guess the donor would just have to risk that the secret comes out that their Christmas gift was given away,” he said. “Otherwise I think it’s a pretty safe bet that nobody will notice.”
King, at the chamber office, said the auction is an opportunity to set up a separate bin for truly hideous articles of clothing people get for Christmas.
“Especially ugly sweaters — people love ugly sweaters,” King said. “They are all the rage. They could make a killing with those.”