By Bill Cantwell
---- — HAVERHILL — They are halfway home — and by Saturday the people raising money for sculptures along the Bradford Rail Trail hope to reach their goal.
Organizers are trying to raise $50,000 to commission sculptors from the region and even across the country to create art work for the trail.
They hope the effort will make the trail a destination for locals and tourists.
The Team Haverhill civic group and the Friends of the Bradford Rail Trail conjured up the plan to place the sculptures on the trail in a project called the Art Walk.
The groups will have an All Aboard Auction Gala Saturday night at Haverhill Country Club, 58 Brickett Lane. The event’s goal is to raise $25,000 for the sculptures. That would double the amount of money available for the project because the local Pentucket Bank has already donated $25,000.
Tickets to the auction are $50 per person, and will not be sold at the door. Tickets must be purchased by sending a check to Team Haverhill at P.O. Box 5034, Haverhill, MA 01835 or at the Team Haverhill web site — www.teamhaverhill.org.
Doors will open at 6 p.m. and a buffet dinner begins at 7 p.m. The event will feature a live and silent action and live entertainment.
The trail is along an old railroad bed on the Bradford side of the Merrimack River, across from downtown. It is being groomed to give people a place to stroll, run and bike along the river.
As part of the entertainment at the auction, Sandra Huerta Vitti of the local Spotlight Players will sing “Chattanooga Choo Choo’’ and “Sentimental Journey.’’
With TV meteorologist Matt Noyes of Haverhill as the auctioneer, the event’s planners said they have some interesting items up for bid. They include an African safari photo trip worth about $6,000, Team Haverhill member Timothy Jordan said.
Called the Hakuna Matata, it features a six-day, six-night South African Photo Safari for two people, including full luxury accommodations, with three meals each day and cross-country trips in open Land Rover vehicles with experienced guides.
Team Haverhill has solicited artists nationwide to submit sculpture designs for the trail.
“We have already talked with Dale Rogers, our local sculptor,” Jordan said of the well-known Haverhill artist, whose metal sculptures have appeared in exhibits around the country.
Rogers is best known locally for his large dog sculpture “The American Dog’’ — a 16-foot-tall work that sits off Interstate 495 south at exit 48.
The plan is for the rail trail to display six sculptures — four permanent pieces and two temporary displays.
“We plan to introduce two new sculptures every one or two years at the temporary displays,” Jordan said.
Already, the trail has a piece of art work created by local students — an 80-by-13-foot wildlife mural displayed on the back of Arthur Sharp’s Hardware store, which is next to the trail.
Pentucket Bank made the decision to sponsor the rail trail sculpture project earlier this year.
“We are thrilled to be partnering with Team Haverhill on this unique initiative for the City of Haverhill,’’ said Scott Cote, president of Pentucket Bank. “I am looking forward to watching the transformation of the Bradford Rail Trail into a safe and interesting destination that residents and visitors to the city will enjoy.’’
IF YOU GO
What: All Aboard Auction Gala to raise $25,000 for sculptures along the Bradford Rail Trail
When: Saturday. Doors will open at 6 p.m. and a buffet dinner begins at 7 p.m.
Where: Haverhill Country Club, 58 Brickett Lane
Cost: Tickets are $50 per person, but will not be sold at the door. Tickets must be purchased by sending a check to Team Haverhill at P.O. Box 5034, Haverhill, MA 01835 or at the Team Haverhill web site — www.teamhaverhill.org.