There is nothing sweet about the COVID-19 pandemic, but Utah Transit Authority is hoping it can at least make wearing face masks a bit more bearable.

UTA has created the UVX Honeybear Hunt as a way to get its riding public to mask up and to help support the Maskerade Initiative sponsored by the city of Provo.

Most people will recognize the cute honey bear bottle with the yellow lids you can purchase at grocery stores. By adding a face mask and some other amenities, such as a pair of angel wings or a fireman’s hat, you have what is becoming popular street art.

The Honeybears, created by a San Francisco street artist known as “fnnch,” have become a cultural sensation in the Bay Area. When the Regional General Manager of UTA’s Timpanogos Service Unit learned of fnnch’s Honeybears, she began luring these cuddly cubs to Utah County.

In March, the COVID-19 pandemic began to hit the United States. Streets emptied, shops boarded up, and public transit ridership dropped significantly. In San Francisco, fnnch responded to the pandemic through his medium of choice: art.

“I noticed a lot of boarded-up storefronts in San Francisco,” fnnch said. “It had been a while since I did street art in San Francisco, so I thought, let’s take something that would otherwise be depressive and turn it into a canvas for art.”

The Honeybears have turned into a cultural sensation in San Francisco, with fnnch selling hundreds of pieces and donating several hundred thousand dollars to charities using portions of the proceeds.

There are hunts happening all across the country — and now in Utah as well.

Mary De La Mare-Schaefer, regional general manager of UTA’s Timpanogos Service Unit, heard about fnnch’s Honeybears through her daughter who lived in San Francisco.

“I heard about them, and I knew I had to have them for UTA,” said De La Mare-Schaefer, who received permission to use the masked Honeybears to encourage riders to wear face coverings on UVX and all of UTA’s mass transit vehicles.

Masks are required on station platforms and while riding buses and trains. UTA created the UVX Honeybear Hunt in support of Provo’s “#JoinTheMaskerade” initiative.

“UVX’s Honeybear Hunt is the perfect addition to our mask-wearing efforts and has the same light-hearted tone clearly resonating within our community,” said Mayor Michelle Kaufusi.

Anyone riding UVX can join the contest by following these rules:

  1. Wear a mask and take a selfie with a Honeybear found along the UVX route.
  2. Post the photo to social media, making sure to tag @RideUTA and use the hashtags “#JoinTheMaskerade” and “#HoneybearHunt.”
  3. Ensure accounts and posts are public, so they can be seen.
  4. Each story post is counted as one entry and each feed post is also counted as an entry. There can be no more than five entries.
  5. Contestants will be entered to win a drawing for a $10 gift card, a mask and a Honeybear sticker.

Winners will be announced and notified at noon on Nov. 9. The more Honeybears discovered and pictures taken, the better the chance of winning.

Daily Herald reporter Genelle Pugmire can be contacted at gpugmire@heraldextra.com, (801) 344-2910, Twitter

@gpugmire

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