Crazy, out there and worth every penny
Governments, at all levels, will inevitably spend our money. When the rare opportunity arises when our tax dollars can be spent on a fun project, we ought to seize that chance immediately.
Or in other words, South Glengarry council ought to forge ahead and erect a huge Scottish figure on Highway 401 in Lancaster. A 50-foot highlander would be a sure-fire, traffic-stopping roadside attraction that diverts some tourist dollars into the regional economy.
Of course, the powers that be would have to dip into the municipal sporran to finance such a grand tourist draw. The price tag is about $300,000. A sum of $200,000 would be required to produce the massive monument and another $100,000 would have to be found to acquire the site.
The initial outlay may seem daunting yet think of the long-term benefits.
For example, way back in 2017, throngs of people, including many Glengarrians got onto the 401 and headed to Brockville to marvel at the World’s Largest Rubber Duck. The 61-foot Mama Duck, and a ten-foot “baby,” named Lucky, were huge hits. Thousands drove long distances to take in the spectacle, and to see and be seen with large fake waterfowl.
Ours is not to question why. The big duck’s appeal may have defied logic, but who cares? We must simply accept life’s mysteries. It was fun, different, silly.
Naturally, there were howls of protests from grumpy taxpayers who were upset because the Ontario government provided $121,325 to the organizers of the duck visit, which was part of the Canada 150 festivities.
However, it is estimated that for every dollar spent, such attractions generate about another $20 in spinoff economic benefits.
Economics dictate that if people are willing to drive two hours to look at a big duck, or a big person dressed in plaid, they are going to spend money in and around the sights.
The summer of the big duck coincided with the unveiling of the Popsilos initiative in Prescott-Russell. Thanks to a $150,000 federal government grant, huge murals have been painted on five silos.
Corny? Not really. They are actually high-level works of art, and are (sorry) outstanding in fields.
Big things get big crowds. We notice the Big Apple along the 401 in Colborne, cannot miss the CN Tower in Toronto, or The World’s Largest Axe, in Nackawic, New Brunswick and Sudbury’s Big Nickel. The Big Goose in Wawa is famous, as is Maman, the spider at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa. The World’s Largest Fiddle can be found in Nova Scotia, The World’s Largest Hockey Stick is in Duncan, British Columbia, and Mac the Moose towers over Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.
Small communities have their fair share of oddities that can
prompt a tourist to get off the four lanes and get lost on a country road.
The land is teeming with super-sized versions of needles, paper clips, fish, berries, potatoes, livestock, furniture.
Any day now, a large Adirondack lawn chair is supposed to appear in Alexandria’s Mill Square.
North Glengarry may also emulate the South and look at putting up a statue on the 417.
Nobody expects that there will be swift action taken on these grandiose notions.
When the Big Highlander proposal was presented at a recent South Glengarry council meeting, members expressed their reservations. Councillor Stephanie Jaworski described the monument as being “kind of a crazy idea in some aspects.”
Coun. Sam McDonell summarized the understandable reticence towards embarking on such a venture. “I don’t hate the idea. I thought it was a little ‘out there,’ but I don’t hate it...But I’m definitely not on board at $200,000.”
Granted, the monetary hit for the statue would punch a hole in any township’s budget, regardless of how wealthy it may be.
Like every municipality, South Glengarry must be conscious of the need to get the biggest bang from every taxpayer’s buck.
However, novel wonders, when properly promoted through coordinated marketing campaigns, can rejuvenate economic development strategies.
It is no secret that the key to the success of any tourism promotional campaign is attracting the attention of all those travellers cruising along the high-speed highways.
There are already many reasons why visitors should spend a lot of time, and their money, in the Celtic Heartland of Ontario.
Fairs, museums, the Games, recreational facilities, a wide and growing selection of eateries, quaint shops, the St. Raphael’s Ruins, the Raisin River Canoe Race, trails, fishing spots, farmers’ markets are just some of the many attractions Glengarry has to offer.
Effective draws are a mix of sizzle and schtick, a blend of style and substance.
South Glengarry Mayor Frank Prevost, in supporting the motives behind the giant highlander, observed: “I like that we’re thinking outside of the box, and I think that’s what we need.”
Once the township has decided to take the plunge, there would be many details to be worked out. The design would have to be carefully chosen. It is possible to concoct a massive Scottish person that would be prominent yet respectful of tradition. The figure would have to be gender neutral, and the selection of a tartan would be fraught with pitfalls.
Another question that will undoubtedly be on some people’s minds: Will the costume be full regimental?