Evansburg, Alberta elects Margaret Hodgkinson as Town Grouch

She had to campaign for the title and is happy to earn it

Some smaller Canadian towns do a lot to put themselves on the map. Sudbury, Ontario has the giant nickel, Shediac, New Brunswick has the World's Largest Lobster and Beardmore, Ontario has the World's Largest Snowman. A town in Alberta doesn't have the largest of anything, but it has a grouch.

Each year, one Evansburg resident receives the honour of being named Town Grouch. The winner is licensed to pester, harass, antagonize, criticize, complain and grumble without fear of reprisal for the whole next year. The population of the town is now 880.

"I shake my fist at everybody that walks by me. I frown as hard as I possibly can, even the little kids start crying," said newly elected Town Grouch Margaret Hodgkinson, 53, to the National Post.

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As part of the title she receives a license to spend a whole year grouching, a street sign that says 10 Frowning St. and a bench on which she can sit and scowl. She also gets to go to a lot of events in costume and growl at people.

"I'm very grouchy," she said to the Edmonton Journal. "I should've been elected years ago."

Hodgkinson is replacing Sandi Scott, who said she was shocked to win because she isn't a grouchy person.

It isn't enough for the winner to be grumpy throughout their tenure; he or she also has an official outfit to wear. They dress up as disgruntled miner caricature, which is a nod to the area's heritage.

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"In reality the people here are very friendly and hospitable," wrote user Dave Darbkitten on Virtual Tourist along with posting a photo in 2006. "It's typical of small-town Alberta."

John Lauer started the tradition in 1974 when he was tasked with creating a new sign for the town about 90 kilometres west of Edmonton. The sign mentions clean air, fresh water and friendly people. He also added the town's population and then dogs and cats, but still had room on the sign.

"So I added '1 Grouch,'" he said to the Edmonton Journal. "That caught a lot of attention."

At first people wouldn't talk about who the grouchiest person was, but in 1979 residents started voting on it.

People initially didn't want to be nominated, but that quickly changed and today people have to campaign to win the title. By campaign, we mean they waggle a coffee can in front of fellow residents and whoever collects the most cash for a local festival wins.

Lauer is happy about the tradition because he says it puts Evansburg on the map and was even mentioned during a Jay Leno show in the 1990s.

As for Hodgkinson, she told the Post that while she is Grouch she plans to complain about the roads.

"They've been building one road for three years," she said. "One road. Yeah, and my road's next. I'm quite upset about that."

(Photo from Virtual Tourist user Dave Darbkitten)