Noodle Boy is campaigning for the little-Saskatchewan-town-that-could, Pense.
The town of about 500 people, located about 25 kilometres west of Regina, is in the Top 4 for the Kraft Hockeyville contest. The contest gives one Canadian town $250,000 for rink upgrades.
Pense is trying to become the first Saskatchewan town to win the annual competition. It is in the final four with Twillingate, N.L, Saint-Felicien, Que., and Tyne Valley, P.E.I. Pense is the second smallest town after Tyne Valley.
"It's kind of crazy to me that Saskatchewan hasn't won," Bevan Harlton said.
Harlton is known around town as Noodle Boy, an unofficial mascot dressed up as a Kraft macaroni and cheese noodle.
He walked down Highway 1 on Friday morning as part of a convoy of RCMP, a firetruck, tractors, mascots and community members. They're trying to rally provincial and Western Canada spirit for the only remaining competitor in the west.
"We met a little bit before 7:00 and there was a combine and a couple of tractors and I was dressed like a noodle and I thought 'Well, there's really no place I'd rather be," Harlton said Friday.
The group arrived at the existing Pense Memorial Rink on Friday at about 10:30 a.m. CST to a group of cheering children from town.
"I didn't know that they were going to be there so that was actually pretty moving," Harlton said. "I could hear them chanting 'Noodle Boy' as we were going down the street."
Harlton created Noodle Boy in January 2020 to rally the town into the Top 4. He said it was really the rink board wanting to do something fun that would get attention. He's been doing "training" videos all week to raise awareness.
For Harlton, it's personal. He was born and raised in the area and his family has farmed in the region for generations.
"And all of those generations have been involved with the different iterations of the rink," he said. "These rinks get to a point in small towns where, you know, it becomes more a part of your fabric than a building — a really special place for everybody."
"More than a building," Harlton said. "When you get so committed and to be a part of a building like that it just becomes literally a part of you."
Harlton said the rink's walls hold many memories, from his own playing time to watching his uncle putting up the glass to working on the Zamboni and watching his friends' children play.
"The place just gets so full up with memories and stories, it just takes on its own life."
Pense Mayor Shauna Young said it's been amazing to watch the province rally behind them and that even being in the Top 4 is huge for the community.
"I would love to see Western Canada really rally behind us," she said. "I think everybody at some point has a tie to a small, rural community ... I ask that you just dig deep."
The Kraft Hockeyville contest has been running since 2006. People can vote at krafthockeyville.ca.
The Pense rink committee said in a release that if it wins, it will use the money to replace the brine piping system in the rink. The system has been in the rink since the rink was rebuilt after a fire in 1989. The replacement would be about $300,000 and the community has raised $106,000 so far. The contest money would put them well over their goal.
"We have got an excellent administration and town council that knows how to stretch a budget but budgets only stretch so far," Young said. "I just can't say enogh about what it would mean to replace that ... brine piping system."