I love telling people I was born in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. Little kids laugh at how funny the name sounds, and adults who have only ever known me as a British Columbian often raise their eyebrows in surprise.
I love that my favourite hockey player, Theoren Fleury, played for the Moose Jaw Warriors WHL team. I love that a giant moose sculpture named Mac stands proudly at the outskirts of the city. And I love that the best poppyseed loaf in the world (in my opinion) has been baked at the Maple Leaf Bakery on South Hill since my Dad was a kid. (I don’t think I’m allowed to say how long ago that is.)
But most of all, I love the fact that a dear childhood friend and I bonded over our discovery that we were both born in Moose Jaw in the same year, same month, and same hospital.
My friend lives in Toronto now, and she recently mentioned how the Moose in the City art project in her new hometown reminds her of Saskatchewan and of our Canadian heritage. In the year 2000, the City of Toronto began a campaign where 326 life-sized fibreglass moose sculptures served as blank canvases for local artists to decorate.
These colourful city moose bear a striking resemblance to their cousin Mac in Moose Jaw, but with one important difference. While Mac stands proudly overlooking Moose Jaw’s tourist information centre, in full view of the Trans-Canada highway, Toronto’s moose are scattered throughout the city like a “Where’s Waldo” game.
Although many of the moose were auctioned off in 2001, there are still some hanging out around town. They serve as reminders of the project’s legacy – according to the Toronto.ca website, Moose in the City attracted 2 million tourists, injected $400 million into the local economy, and raised $1.4 million for Canada’s Olympic athletes and local Toronto charities.
For my friend, they also serve as a reminder of a prairie home far away, where you are more likely to run into a real moose than a fibreglass one, unless you’re talking about the one named Mac who’s larger than life.