HAVERHILL — Hundreds, even thousands of people drive past Bradford Common in Haverhill each day and notice nothing unusual — people sitting on park benches, others walking their dogs.
But this weekend, there will be plenty to catch the eyes of passers-by, as local metal artist Dale Rogers displays 20 of his oversized "American Dog'' sculptures.
Rogers is known nationally for his iconic metal dogs, which he puts on display regularly at art shows and fundraising events in other parts of the country. You've likely seen his biggest "American Dog'' -- a 12-foot-tall landmark sculpture in a field just off I-495 south in Haverhill.
Dale Rogers American Dog sculptures "return home" while on display at the Bradford Common as part of a fundraiser that will benefit several lo…
He usually decorates his giant dog to reflect the season. He recently added pumpkins to the big dog, and during the holidays he'll attach a wreath to it. In the spring he'll mount a metal cardinal sculpture, and for the Fourth of July he'll hang an American flag.
His American Dogs were on display in the Bradford Common during the summer of 2009, but this time around they have returned not only to entertain and amaze, but to raise money for several local charities. They, too, will be decorated, only each dog's sponsor will decide the theme.
"The magic happened here first," said Rogers, who brings his unique 8-foot-tall, 10-foot-long American Dog sculptures to fundraising events across the country each year. Sponsors rent the dogs to raise money for dog rescue and other similar organizations. Rogers said his big dog shows have helped organizations across the country raise more than $300,000 for their charities.
All 20 giant dogs on display at the Bradford Common this weekend have sponsors who paid $200 each. Sponsors were asked to decorate their dogs any way they wished, just so long as they were creative. Political campaign signs were allowed.
All of the sponsorship money will go to support the Cogswell Art Center and Sweet Paws Dog Rescue of Haverhill. The First Church of Christ, which is allowing the show to take place on the common, will also receive a donation.
The show runs Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day and also features food, beverages, informational vendors, and live music.
"This whole event evolved into a much bigger outpouring of support that we ever could have imagined," said Dana DeFranco, who operates Battle Grounds Coffee Company on Washington Street with her husband Salvatore DeFranco.
The idea to hold this event sprouted this past spring when Sheryl Folk, who operates Over the Moon Cakes, asked Rogers if he would consider bringing his big dog show back to Haverhill, and use the dogs to raise money for local causes.
"Dana took over the social media aspect and it took off from there," Folk said. "Battle Grounds became the hub for this event."
Rogers and his crew of workers unloaded each of the 800-pound dogs from two flatbed trucks on Thursday. They bolted each sculpture to sets of steel plates they anchored to the ground with long spikes.
Sponsors were asked to decorate their dogs in time for the show's opening at 10 a.m. on Friday.
"Rich Rosa and I worked together to present 'Clifford the Well Read Dog," said Salvatore DeFranco. "It will have a chalkboard around its neck, and will also have a backpack and books and magnetic letters like the kind children use."
DeFranco revealed a few other decorating proposals, including Kenneth Quimby's idea to use a Halloween theme for his dog.
"Joe Bevilacqua is doing an Uncle Sam theme, only in this case it will say something like, 'I want you' ... to believe in Haverhill,'" DeFranco said. "We encouraged all of our sponsors to be creative, as there will be a best in show prize."
Battle Grounds, located at 39 Washington St., is selling raffle tickets for a 3-foot tall Dale Rogers American Dog sculpture valued at $1,000, to be raffled off on Sunday on the Bradford Common. The dog is on display at Battle Grounds. Only 150 tickets at $20 each will be sold. All of the money raised goes to the named charities.
This weekend's American Dog Show will also feature various artists and craftspeople, including a furniture maker and a photographer. Vendors include a solar energy start-up company, Teased Salon & Spa of Haverhill, and Over the Moon Cakes.
Battle Grounds will be selling cold brew iced coffee on tap, kombucha on tap, ice teas, and hot and cold apple cider.
A hot dog bar operated by Dana DeFranco and Sheryl Folk will offer franks and beans, classic hot dogs, hot dogs with homemade chili, sauerkraut dogs and salsa dogs.
"We'll also be selling a Haverhill Hound Dog for $19.95," said Dale Rogers. "It's going to be the Mona Lisa of hot dogs."
Live music includes a performance on Saturday from noon to 2 p.m. by the band, Unnamed Colors. Sunday's performance, from noon to 3 p.m., features the band Ski & the 99'ers.