Lead photo, courtesy of TVO: perhaps the most famous Canadian roadside attraction is the Canada Goose statue in Wawa, Ontario – this is where Terry Fox stopped on his valiant effort to run across Canada. Learn more about Terry Fox at the Canadian Encyclopedia website: https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/timeline/terry-fox
The goose has been refurbished and replaced several times – read the story at the TVO website – https://www.tvo.org/article/roadside-attraction-showdown-the-wawa-goose
Giant Roadside Attractions
by Craig Ritchie
Six hours of sitting behind the wheel is enough to make anyone antsy to get out for a stroll, and I’m thinking of doing just that as we finally near Leamington, Ontario. The forest begins to open up as we approach the small settlement on the Trans Canada. Entering the village, we cross a bridge spanning a wild, white-water river then, in a clearing off to the right of the highway, I spy a 20-foot high tomato.
Welcome to Canada. Land of the free, home of the giant roadside attraction.
I’m not sure what it is that compels Canadians to erect house-sized vegetables, lawn chairs, bowling pins and coffee pots alongside our nation’s highways. But no other country on earth is blessed with such a dazzling array of puzzling curbside monuments. They’re found in every province, along almost every major highway. Some are made from wood, others from steel or aluminum, a few from high-tech graphite and fibreglass. A couple have their own fan clubs, and a few are internationally famous.
Take Husky The Musky, for example. The monstrous man-made fish sits atop a pillar in Kenora, Ontario, occupying a prime piece of real estate in a park on the city’s waterfront. The unofficial town mascot, Husky The Musky has become Kenora’s icon, its public face that sets it aside from dozens of other mining towns in northwestern Ontario. Visit the website at: https://visitsunsetcountry.com/husky-muskie
Sudbury’s Big Nickel is another big roadside attraction that has become an internationally-recognized landmark – the Bank of Canada Museum website has a very interesting article on the design and background of this very well-known landmark – visit the website at: https://www.bankofcanadamuseum.ca/2014/11/the-big-nickel/
Ditto for Selkirk, Manitoba’s famed channel catfish, Chuck, and Aaron, the eight-foot blue heron that supervises traffic in Barrhead, Alberta. See more about Chuck at the Travel Manitoba website: https://www.travelmanitoba.com/things-to-do/itineraries/summer-on-the-red-river/
Many of Canada’s large roadside attractions are so much larger than life they’re recognized as world records. Just off the shoulder of a highway, you can check out the world’s largest bathtub, Coke can, wind chimes, cookie jar, lamp, maple leaf, smoking pipe and western boot. Elm Creek, Manitoba, is home to the world’s largest fire hydrant. Thankfully, the world’s largest dog remains three time zones away, in Levis, Quebec.
None of this came as a surprise to Ed Solonyka, who in 1998 launched a web site devoted to the appreciation of large Canadian roadside attractions (www.roadsideattractions.ca ). “I thought this would be an interesting and offbeat topic for a web site,” said Solonyka. “So I spent a couple months of research on the internet and launched my web site with approximately 50 photos. With considerable help from visitors to my web site, I now have 548.” More than 4,200 people log onto Solonyka’s Large Canadian Roadside Attractions every month, to view and trade photographs of these unusual landmarks. Sadly, Ed passed away in 2015, but his dream of visiting Canada’s roadside attractions lives on, online – see the Toronto Star tribute to Ed here: https://www.thestar.com/news/insight/he-spent-17-years-building-a-website-for-roadside-attractions-but-died-before-he-could/article_b8567efd-882b-52bd-b821-9d970666e85c.html
The range of monuments is, well, monumental. This being Canada, renditions of wildlife are particularly popular – particularly moose, bears, Canada geese and beavers. Sundials and salmon are almost everywhere, as are mosquitoes and (oddly) lawn chairs. Some of the more unusual things you might notice alongside the highway would include the enormous Hershey Kiss in Niagara Falls, Ontario, the UFO landing pad in St. Paul, Alberta, the giant coffee pot in Davidson, Saskatchewan or the world’s largest potato in Maugerville, New Brunswick. The spud was renovated in 2022 – it’s a cool story – read about this on the CTV website at: https://atlantic.ctvnews.ca/the-big-potato-goes-from-tattered-tater-to-sophisticated-spud-in-n-b-town-1.5999807
Can’t get through the day without eyeballing the world’s biggest grasshopper (a 10-footer named Ralph)? Then Ogema, Saskatchewan is where you want to be. Got a craving for fiddleheads? Then drive to Plaster Rock, New Brunswick and check out the largest on earth. Need to see a flying saucer? Then head to – appropriately enough – Moonbeam, Ontario. https://www.northeasternontario.com/partner/township-of-moonbeam/
Among the most popular giant roadside attractions in Canada is the Big Apple, just off highway 401 at Colborne, Ontario, where you can find some of the best apple pies and related treats… stop for a photo, enjoy a delicious meal, and take home one of the finest pies in the province! Visit the website for more information: https://thebigapple.ca/
Looking for something fun to try this summer? How about a roadside attraction tour? In a country studded with giant aluminum geese and monstrous steel fruit, there truly is something for everyone!