The iconic Happy Rock statue that greets people coming into or driving past Gladstone, located 106 kilometres northeast of Brandon, will be getting some much-needed TLC soon, thanks to a tender the rural municipality put out for repairs on it earlier this summer.
Coralie Smith, chief administrative officer of the Municipality of Westlake-Gladstone, said the improvements will include fibreglass repair and a new coat of paint. The base of the structure, which used to be a tourist booth and feature washrooms, received water damage recently, so repairs will also have to be made to the interior of the landmark, even though it’s not in use anymore.
“We need to replace the stud walls and reframe the inside of it.”
The tender closed on July 18, and Smith said last week she hoped it would be awarded at the July 20 council meeting. She hopes, with the right treatment, the famous statue will stand for many years to come.
“There’s always people who stop there to take pictures of it. Everybody refers to Gladstone as ‘Happy Rock,’ so … we’ve definitely gotten quite a bit of exposure out of it.”
Built in 1986, the statue has been featured on a Canada Post stamp and the label of Jones Soda Co., a company located in Seattle, Wash.
Smith said the rural municipality is working in conjunction with the Gladstone Chamber of Commerce to beautify the grounds around the statue, including landscaping.
Kate Halashewski, secretary of the chamber, said they’re also looking at installing lighting and replacing some old flagpoles that are no longer functional.
“We’ve had a lot of trouble trying to scale up and down [the flagpoles] over the years to replace flags. They easily become tattered and to be truthful, we get a lot of complaints from people driving by who see these flags and think they’re neglected and tattered.
“The truth of it is it’s just really hard to get up and down the poles because the pulleys don’t work.”
Over the last couple of years, the light on the statue hasn’t been working properly. Halashewski said the chamber wants to replace it with something more modern.
“We’re hoping to have some new, more eco-friendly [lighting], or maybe even solar lighting installed so that passersby in the night can actually see it.”
The garbage bins are constantly full, so another idea the chamber has is replacing them through a partnership with Recycle Everywhere, a program the Canadian Beverage Container Recycling Association founded in 2010.
Halashewski said the statue is all about making people smile, whether they be visitors to the community or people just passing by. It’s also a reflection of the rural municipality and the people who live there, and Halashewski wants to make sure it represents the community accurately.
“I think sometimes when these tourist attractions look unkempt, it gives the impression that the community doesn’t care, and that’s really not the case here. It just comes down to finances and volunteer hours.”
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the chamber started a Happy Rock revival campaign and established a GoFundMe crowdfunding page. They were able to raise around $5,000, which paid for the mould issue on the inside of the tourist attraction to be fixed.
Halashewski said now that pandemic restrictions have lifted, the chamber wants to become more active in the community. The updates and repairs to the Happy Rock statue are the beginning of their plans to make the rural municipality even better in the coming years.
Miranda Leybourne, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun