Daily dose of sweetness: Family-friendly 'bear hunts' unite Rochester

Reporter Catharine Richert take us on an expedition with her family.

Sara Flick's giant teddy bear.
Around Rochester, Minn., people are putting stuffed animals in their windows to surprise and delight cooped-up kids. Here, Sara Flick's giant teddy bear greets the neighborhood.
Courtesy of Sara Flick

In the midst of a pandemic, you do the obvious thing, which is ... go on a bear hunt.

Not a real bear hunt, of course.

Last week, my kids and I cruised the neighborhood on scooters, looking for stuffed bears and other creatures in our neighbors’ windows — glimpses of humor and normalcy in a not-so-normal time. Everywhere around town, people are putting stuffed animals in their windows to surprise and delight cooped-up kids.

Arley and Amelia Jones
Arley Jones, 7, on the left and Amelia Jones, 4, in front of their decorated window before taking off on a bear hunt.
Catharine Richert | MPR News

Frankly, I have no clue who came up with this lovely idea, but from my social media feeds, it seems like everyone is in on it.

Our adventure started next door, where my 4-year-old, Amelia, spotted a white bear in a second-floor window.

"Does the teddy bear have a name up there?"

Our neighbor Ursula chimed in. "Nope, that's the COVID-19 bear."

My kids nodded as if this all made sense, and we continued on.

Earlier in the day at work, I'd happened to talk to Dr. Craig Sawchuk for an another story I was working on. He's a psychiatrist in town, and works at Mayo Clinic. And he told me this is the type of thing we should be doing right now to keep our mental health in check.

"We want to have some novelty. And getting outside of our house in a way where we are staying in accordance with what's being recommended by the CDC is really important right now,” he said.

Sawchuk said little moments like this bear hunt bring goodness and levity into what is otherwise a pretty sobering situation.

Bears sit in a window overlooking downtown Rochester.
Stuffed animals sit in a window overlooking downtown Rochester.
Landon Miller | Courtesy of Sean Baker

On our mile-and-a-half-long trek through the neighborhood, we spotted 17 stuffed animals peeking from behind curtains, doing headstands, even climbing up windows.

I also fielded a lot of questions from my eldest son, Arley.


“Why do people use outhouses to go to the bathroom?”


“Why do people need to say ‘cheese’ when they’re in a picture?”

Plus the thing that’s weighing on all our minds…

"Why are cowboy towns so small?"

About halfway through our adventure, he cut to the chase and asked about the coronavirus. He's been doing that a lot this week.

"Do people even know if they have it or not?"

Charlie Rose's bear in disguise.
Charlie Rose's bear has been disguising itself for extra fun. "We’re participating to spread some joy during a difficult time," Rose said via email.
Courtesy of Charlie Rose

I'm really not sure how best to answer my kid's numerous questions about why our life has been turned upside down.

I mean, I can't even explain why cowboy towns are so small.

But I'm doing my best, keeping it simple, and hoping he doesn't freak out.

The last stop on our hunt was at a place that's familiar to us — my mom's house, where she has a giraffe and poodle in her window.

She came out on to her porch, but kept her distance.

“You should have told me to put some makeup on,” she reprimanded me, and I remind her that no one can see her face on the radio.

“Oh, I wish I could hug you guys. I'm sorry I can't," she said.

We skipped hugs for the day, knowing there will be plenty in a few months.

From acts of kindness and sweet gestures to inspirational signs, these are some of the ways Minnesotans are lifting one another during the coronavirus pandemic.

Discover something that brightens your day? We may include it here. Email it to nyang@mpr.org.

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