There is lingering mourning and a touch of anxiety in the hamlet of Torrington as citizens await the return of the community’s beloved mascot, Clem T. Go-Fur.
The cartoonish overall-clad four-metre-tall statue was created in 1991, but has been out of service since last fall after falling off his pedestal.
“I was very disappointed. It means a lot to tourism and to the community,” said Dianne Kurta, director of the village’s “World Famous” Gopher Hole Museum, which has attracted national and international attention, both for its whimsy and because it has miffed some animal rights groups.
The museum features tongue-in-cheek dioramas of stuffed gophers (actually Richardson’s ground squirrels) in tiny costumes and engaged in a host of human activities from fishing and farming to curling and card playing.
“We were looking for something different to attract people (to) our town and they knew the museum was the way to go,” she said. “So they decided to stuff gophers and make a museum out of stuffed gophers and it has done its job.”
The museum (see more at the Gopher Hole Museum website) is now in its 19th year and attracts about 7,000 to 8,000 tourists a year to the hamlet of just over 170 people, located 35 kilometres east of Olds.
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Clem, who inspired the museum, will be restored to his full glory, said Al Hoggan, chief administrative officer for Kneehill County.
“We have Clem in the public works shop and, as time permits, we are slowly rebuilding him,” said Hoggan.
It’s believed both vandalism and “inherent design flaws” caused Clem’s unfortunate current condition.
Water getting inside the fibreglass statue rusted the interior metal pipe that attached it to its concrete base, Hoggan said.
“Either in a good wind or somebody pushing Clem, it fell over from age and the original design,” he said.
When Clem does return, the community may hold a celebration to mark the occasion, said Kurta.
“I really would like to because there has been a lot of people who have come to the museum and had their picture taken with Clem,” she said. “And people do come back and they say, ‘Where’s Clem?’
“That is one of the main things they look forward to because he stood right at the corner of Torrington and he is so noticeable when he is there.”