GARDEN CITY, Rich County — Pity the poor Bear Lake monster.

The menacing dinosaur-like creature that various people have reported seeing in the lake over the years is well-known enough locally, but it has never enjoyed the notoriety of, say, Scotland's Loch Ness monster, or Vermont's Lake Champlain monster, recently the subject of a Discovery Channel inquiry.

(Some people maintain the Loch Ness and Bear Lake monsters are one and the same, that there's an underground channel of water connecting Bear Lake and Loch Ness that the creature uses to travel between them. Scientific research in this area, alas, is somewhat lacking.)

Take, for example, the issue of names. The Loch Ness monster's name is Nessie. The Lake Champlain monster's name is Champ. Even the South Bay monster of Lake Erie has a name: Bessie.

Betcha you can't think of the Bear Lake monster's name.

"I dunno," said Christine Fjeldsted at LaBeau's Drive-In in Garden City, where raspberry shakes are a specialty. (Bear Lake is famous for its raspberries.) "I guess 'Bear Lake' is kind of its name."

" 'Raspy,' maybe, because of the raspberries," said Cherie Henderson from behind the counter of the Beary Patch gift shop. "It needs a name, yeah. I'll have to bring it up at the next (city) council meeting."

Entertainment is cheap in a small town — Henderson goes to every council meeting. "There's some pretty good comedy there."

"She (the monster) ought to have a nice, common Indian name, since the Indians were the ones who saw her first," said Bill England, owner of Bear Lake Pizza Company.

(Side note: Bear Lake Pizza Company is the home of the mammoth 28-inch, 15-pound, "Old Ephraim" pizza. Every group that succeeds in eating an entire Old Ephraim in one sitting gets its snapshot on the wall. One such picture features two young men. "It took them three years of trying to finally eat the whole thing," England said.)

"I dunno about the name," said an attendant at the Sinclair gas station, whose sign, one of the first things visitors see when they come into town, features, yes, a Bear Lake monster-like dinosaur. "I dunno if it has a name. I dunno what it should be."

Despite some encouragement, the attendant declined to elaborate.

Possibilities for names abound, though some are more palatable than others. Beary, Raspy, Razzy, Lakie roll off the tongue fairly easily. And since the lake was also known as Sweet Lake, Little Lake and Snake Lake at various times in the past, the monster could be known as Snakie, Small Fry or Sweetie.

But all of that is moot: Most people don't know it, but the Bear Lake monster already has a name. During Garden City's annual Raspberry Days festival in 1996, chairwoman Anne Rex organized a contest wherein local elementary schoolchildren vied to name the monster.

"I wanted to see what kind of feeling people in the community had about her — or him," she said. (Most people refer to the monster as a she.) "Every one of the names were happy names — there was never anything scary."

Out of 150 names submitted, including such wildly imaginative monikers as "Fred," the judges chose the name submitted by 8-year-old Amanda Price: "Isabella."

"I think I'd heard the name in a movie," Amanda, now 16, said. "I just liked it."

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"Isabella" has yet to take hold. Amanda now works at Bill England's own Bear Lake Pizza Company, and even England didn't know the monster's name or that he employs the namer.

"I've never read anything that gives it a name," he said.

Ah, well. Patience. "It takes years and years and years for something like this to catch on," Rex said.


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