Sunday, March 27, 2011

Really big things

It’s a western Canadian thing I think.  In our travels around North America we have occasionally seen really big things masquerading as tourist attractions in other areas but western Canada seems to be obsessed with really big things.  I expect the conversation at the local economic development meeting goes something like this:

“We need more tourism because all our farmers are dying off or moving to the city and we don’t have any other real economic drivers”

“But why would anybody in their right mind come to East Overshoe when they could go to some really cool place like Vegreville or Davidson?”

“What’s so cool about Vegreville?”

“Well ………………………..…. they’ve got that really big egg.”

And the conversation deteriorates from there until Lars the local welder gets hired to build a really big overshoe out of scrap iron. 

Fans of Corner Gas will remember the episode where the lackluster mayor of Dog River proposes that the town should build something really big to attract tourists.  The mayor’s desire for a really big thing is in response to neighbouring Woolerton’s construction of their own really big thing.  As the plot unfolds, or perhaps I should say “unwinds” the town decides to build a really big hoe to commemorate the residents’ love of gardening.  This of course leaves plenty of room for the local sophisticates to make bad puns about the choice of a big dirty hoe as the town’s chief attraction.

Several years ago now the Nipawin Chamber of Commerce came up with the wildly original idea that the town should have a really big jackfish.  In Nipawin’s case the town already has a tourism industry and a large part of that tourism is driven by the lowly jackfish (“northern” or “n’athuns” to my American readers”) so there was a certain logic to the unimaginative notion.  But come on – who really wants to see a giant rusty jackfish leaping out of the unmowed quackgrass by the roadside?

Parkside’s lily is a good example of what happens when the initial enthusiasm over the idea wanes.

The sign is weathered and the lily is starting to fade but its still there and successive village councils will have to either scrape up the funds to keep it looking attractive or figure out how to gracefully retire it.  One of the main charms of real lilies is that they look nice for a week or so and then have the grace to die and fade away forever.  Welded lilies have no such consideration.

The giant coffee pot at Davidson is one of the more bizarre “attractions” we’ve come across.  Davidson’s main claim to fame for the last 50 years has been that it is a convenient place to pee midway between Regina and Saskatoon.  For years the town managed to resist efforts to move the divided highway outside town but time moved on and the town became just another prairie town that was bypassed by the freeway.  Its not hard to imagine the logic which concluded that hiring the local welding shop to build a huge coffee pot would restore the town’s reputation as a stopping place.

I don’t have a picture of the mining truck at Castlegar but it’s a good example of a real really big thing.  Real really big things seem more honest.  At least they look authentic and they usually have some direct connection to the town’s history.  At the other extreme would be the giant plaster moose standing beside #1 highway outside Moose Jaw, SK.  An obvious play on the town’s name the moose is nevertheless woefully out of proportion.  A real moose confirms that the creator has a sense of humour.  The real moose looks like he was assembled from spare parts left over after the rest of the creatures were created with spindly legs that look woefully inadequate to hold his ungainly upper body.  The plaster moose suffers from no such problem.  His legs look like redwood stumps and are clearly up to the task of supporting his misshapen body.  Just to keep everything in context the moose stands next to a fighter jet.

1 comment:

Reluctant Cowboy said...

And of coarse Minnesota is rich with oversized aberrations.

(just trying something new)

Though I most admit the new black duck is a lot more scary.