Crazy, out there and worth every penny

The Glengarry News - - The Opinion Page - [email protected]­gar­ -- Richard Mahoney

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?

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