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Tillicum the Sea Otter to Bee Bop the Beluga: The argument for a Vancouver city mascot

Vancouver can sometimes be a 'cold and heartless place,' but one former council candidate thinks he has the answer

Tillicum the Sea Otter, Mike Harcourt and Bee Bop the Beluga. Tillicum was created to celebrate Vancouver's Centennial in 1986.

Glen E. Erickson / City of Vancouver Archives

Tillicum the Sea Otter, Mike Harcourt and Bee Bop the Beluga. Tillicum was created to celebrate Vancouver's Centennial in 1986.

Could a cute fuzzy mascot help instil a sense of civic pride in Vancouver?

Pete Fry, a former Vancouver city council candidate, is musing about that question after taking a trip down memory lane to that storied year in Vancouver history, 1986, when Tillicum the Sea Otter roamed the streets along with his pal, Bee Bop the Beluga.

“On a purely symbolic level, Vancouver as a city has become a cold and heartless place for many of us, and maybe something that identifies as a little bit more warm and fuzzy wouldn’t be a bad thing,” said Fry, who posted the query on Twitter along with photos of Tillicum with former Vancouver mayor Mike Harcourt.

Tillicum was created to help celebrate Vancouver’s centennial, which fell on April 6, 1986 — the same year the city hosted Expo 86. (A Mr. Painter won a contest to name the mascot, and won a book about sea otters, a one-year membership to the Vancouver Aquarium and a brand new Sony Walkman, according to a post on the Vancouver Archives blog.)

Fry, who plans to run again as a Green council candidate in the upcoming municipal election, says he doesn’t plan to include his mascot pitch in his campaign.

A slightly terrifying photo of Tillicum the Sea Otter and a bunch of other mascots at the PNE in 1986.

City of Vancouver Archives

A slightly terrifying photo of Tillicum the Sea Otter and a bunch of other mascots at the PNE in 1986.

But he is serious about considering what a mascot could add to the city: choosing a mascot could be an opportunity to talk about what would best represent the city and what we really love about Vancouver.

“I’ve travelled quite a bit to Japan and I’ve always been impressed by how different cities have mascots,” he said. “It adds a little bit of magic and it kind of personalizes what’s otherwise pretty mundane city business.

“I really think it does something to instil a bit of pride and endearment into the city.”

Musubimaru, a mascot representing Miyagi Prefecture in Japan. The region is known for rice farming.

Littlelixie/Flickr Creative Commons

Musubimaru, a mascot representing Miyagi Prefecture in Japan. The region is known for rice farming.

Fry is partial to crows (a local crow, Canuck, is particularly well-known for his adventures in East Vancouver), although he acknowledges that a bird might not make the fuzziest or cutest mascot.

Fry is also curious about where the Tillicum mascot costume ended up (the Museum of Vancouver doesn't have the item, although the museum recently displayed Quatchi, an official mascot of the 2010 Winter Olympics, as well as Squatchi, a protest mascot).

Metro is currently making inquiries, but please get in touch if you have any information to share or thoughts on what would make a good Vancouver mascot. You can email us at vancouver@metronews.ca.

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