Going wild over big things
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.