Go­ing wild over big things

The Glengarry News - - The Opinion Page - -- Richard Ma­honey (richard@glen­gar­rynews.ca)

In the dis­tance, on the hori­zon, there was a huge beak. Eureka! The long search for the World’s Largest Rub­ber Duck was about to end, af­ter a pre­cious pub­lic park­ing spot could be found. On a rare rain-free sum­mer day, throngs had flocked to down­town Brockville to see the 61-foot Mama Duck, tow­er­ing over a wa­ter­front park. Weigh­ing 30,000 pounds, the vinyl and rub­ber bird was ac­com­pa­nied on its first trip to Canada by a ten-foot tall “baby,” named Lucky.

And no, you can’t get down from this mas­sive odd duck be­cause, for safety rea­sons, no­body is al­lowed to ride it.

In spite of that re­stric­tion, Mama was a huge mar­ket­ing coup as thou­sands con­verged on Brockville to see and be seen with the hu­mungous wa­ter­fowl. Thou­sands drove long dis­tances and walked sev­eral city blocks to take in the spec­ta­cle. There were even some Québé­cois in the crowd. Why would so many peo­ple go wild over a bird? Ev­ery­thing does not re­quire an ex­pla­na­tion. But the duck’s ap­peal has some­thing to do with it be­ing fun, dif­fer­ent, slightly goofy, and from a lo­gis­ti­cal view­point, rather in­trigu­ing. What is not to love about a tall yel­low in­flated blob? Cue the cho­rus of grumpy tax­pay­ers. That squawk­ing sound you hear is emit­ted by those who are ab­so­lutely wild about tax dol­lars be­ing spent to bring such a fab­u­lous at­trac­tion to On­tario. In case you have been on Mars, some feathers were ruf­fled when the On­tario gov­ern­ment pro­vided $121,325 to the or­ga­niz­ers of the duck visit, which was part of the Canada 150 fes­tiv­i­ties.

It is all fine and good for naysay­ers to be fix­ated on fru­gal­ity and money, par­tic­u­larly when we pay a for­tune for elec­tric­ity, sum­mer is on the wane and ev­ery­thing costs more these days. We could be all gloomy gusses and fear any­thing novel. But, if you are con­cerned about money, re­mem­ber that it is es­ti­mated that, for ev­ery dol­lar spent, a show like the fab­u­lous fowl gen­er­ates about an­other $20 in spinoff eco­nomic ben­e­fits. Think of it: If you are go­ing to drive two hours to see a big duck, you may as well size up other at­trac­tions at the same time. Chances are that some­where in your trav­els, you are go­ing to fork out some money for fuel and food.

Closer to home, north of the 417, in Prescott-Rus­sell, the Pop­si­los ini­tia­tive has been a huge suc­cess.

Here again, pub­lic funds have been used to fi­nance what was, on the sur­face, an un­con­ven­tional no­tion. Thanks to a $150,000 fed­eral gov­ern­ment grant, huge mu­rals have been painted on five corn si­los. It turns out that this has been money well spent, con­sid­er­ing the count­less num­bers of visi­tors who have gawked at the colour­ful cre­ations that are lit­er­ally out­stand­ing in fields. Big things have proven to be big crowd get­ters. We are all fa­mil­iar with the Big Ap­ple in Col­borne, the fab­u­lous fruit that can be seen from the 401.

The Big Nickel in Sud­bury is a must-see. The CN Tower in Toronto still im­presses. The Big Goose in Wawa is so fa­mous it is fea­tured in a se­ries of chil­dren’s books, along with such as Henri L’Orig­nal, Jack The Bear and Clarence The Crow. Ma­man, the spi­der at the Na­tional Gallery of Canada in Ot­tawa, is a mag­net.

The World’s Largest Axe, in Nack­awic, New Brunswick, is worth a visit. By the way, an­other at­trac­tion, in Maugerville, is a World War II in­tern­ment camp, which housed 1,200 cap­tured pris­on­ers in­clud­ing Ger­man and Ital­ian mer­chant marines as well as Cana­di­ans who spoke out against the war. The World’s Largest Fid­dle can be found in Nova Sco­tia. Drumheller, Al­berta is world fa­mous for its rich de­posits of di­nosaur bones and fos­sils. Nat­u­rally, The Di­nosaur Cap­i­tal of the World boasts a hu­mungous pre­his­toric crea­ture. Visi­tors can climb high into her mouth for an un­par­al­leled view of the Bad­lands.

The World’s Largest Hockey Stick is a real win­ner for Dun­can, Bri­tish Columbia. Man­i­toba’s ex­trav­a­gant easel is a trib­ute to Vin­cent van Gogh. Of course, there’s a Gi­ant Beaver in Beaver­lodge, Al­berta, and a gar­gan­tuan moose, named Mac, in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.

All across this vast na­tion, there is an as­sort­ment of over-sized od­di­ties -- ducks, ber­ries, squid, pota­toes, mail­boxes, rock­ing horses, chairs, cows, bi­son, mo­tor­cy­cles, nee­dles, pa­per clips.

No va­ca­tion is com­plete with­out a photo of your­self seated in a huge re­cliner or pre­tend­ing to be swal­lowed by a big plas­tic fish.

Weird won­ders, when com­bined with mar­ket­ing cam­paigns, can in­deed work won­ders for eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment strate­gies.

The key to Glen­garry’s tourism pro­mo­tional ef­forts is get­ting the at­ten­tion of all those trav­ellers zip­ping along high­ways to the north and south of the Celtic Heart­land of On­tario. There is a lot of com­pe­ti­tion for tourists’ time and money. While big cities are the prime des­ti­na­tions of most visi­tors, there is also much to be dis­cov­ered along the ru­ral routes and in the small com­mu­ni­ties that dot the East­ern On­tario land­scape.

Let’s toss around this idea

How does the rest of the world see us? Well, Corn­wall Tourism, which also touts the sites and sights of Stor­mont-Dun­das-Glen­garry, notes that South Glen­garry fea­tures sev­eral mu­se­ums, fes­ti­vals and com­mu­nity spe­cial events. Wil­liamstown Fair as al­ways prom­ises fun for all. The Glen­garry, Nor’Westers and Loy­al­ist Mu­seum reg­u­larly fea­tures spe­cial col­lec­tion view­ings; the South Lan­caster Walk­ing Tour of­fers the op­por­tu­nity to ex­plore many of its hid­den jewels. St. Raphael’s Galarama is a much an­tic­i­pated event that fea­tures live en­ter­tain­ment and games for the whole fam­ily. The Char-Lan Recre­ation Cen­tre in Wil­liamstown is home to ath­letes of all ages, in­clud­ing the Char-Lan Rebels hockey team. In spring when wa­ter lev­els are high, many com­pete in the an­nual Raisin River Ca­noe Race which prides it­self as be­ing the long­est ca­noe race in East­ern On­tario.

Mean­while, North Glen­garry of­fers an ex­ten­sive net­work of groomed trails makes North Glen­garry a pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tion for hik­ers, cross­coun­try skiers, snow­shoers and snow­mo­bil­ers. It is alive with fes­ti­vals through­out the year and is home to the world-fa­mous Glen­garry High­land Games. “North Glen­garry is the envy of many ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties with two full-ser­vice are­nas,” the web page reads.

No­tice that there is not one Big Thing men­tioned in the plug for this part of the world.

For­tu­nately, this void can be eas­ily be filled. Maxville would be a nat­u­ral site for The World’s Largest Caber. Of course, it would have to be van­dal-re­sis­tant. But it couldn’t be all that com­pli­cated. A Hy­dro One pole, spon­sored by the cor­po­ra­tion that brings power to the peo­ple, could eas­ily be con­verted into a su­per caber.

It may sound like a crazy idea, but try telling that to the peo­ple and busi­nesses of Brockville, and the thou­sands at­tracted by a big duck.

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