Fort Frances might find itself in the shadow of a 30-foot tall wooden mountie in the not-so-distant future.
In an off-the-cuff remark during the official opening of the new Canada Customs and Immigration facility here last Wednesday morning, Mayor Glenn Witherspoon revealed the “Monty the Mountie” project is being discussed as an option to promote tourism.
“We have to utilize [the facility] to make it the greatest port it can be,” he said.
But is a 30-foot tall statue in the downtown core what this town needs to make the nearly one million people who cross the border stop and stay a while?
In a conversation late last week, Mayor Witherspoon noted other towns in the area have gone the same route.
“It would be something like the ‘Smokey the Bear’ statue in [International Falls],” he said. “Every town needs something to centre around.”
But he also stressed the plan is preliminary and that no decisions will be made until Winnipeg-based Hilderman, Thomas, Frank, and Cram—the company hired to consult on the “Re-Inventing Fort Frances” project—has completed its research.
Janis Lesko, chair of the “Re-Inventing” committee, confirmed the mayor had proposed the Mountie statue idea, but stressed all decisions are pending the consultant’s findings.
“I really can’t say more about [‘Monty the Mountie’],” Lesko said. “There are many, many ideas that are being discussed.”
Among these ideas is a smaller-scale statue to commemorate Fort Frances’ namesake—Lady Frances Simpson.
Lesko said the first meeting with the consultant will be held Aug. 13 and she invited suggestions from everyone in town.
Whether there will be a statue of an enormous Mountie or of a petite aristocrat is not yet clear. What is more evident is the committee’s objectives.
“We have to give tourists a reason to stop,” Lesko stressed. “We have to make it intriguing enough to make [visitors] stop and spend some money.”