News / Winnipeg

Manitoba towns battle online for roadside attraction crown

A polar bear and a camel are locked in a vicious battle, and it’s up to the Internet to decide who lives to fight another day.

It might sound like the premise for a bizarre new Discovery Channel show, but it’s actually an online promotion from Travel Manitoba that pits the province’s roadside attractions against each other to determine who’s the top banana…or mosquito, curling rock or giant Van Gogh painting.

Thirty-two of the province’s oddest tourist attractions — from Elm Creek’s fire hydrant to Inwood’s garter snakes — made the cut for the inaugural Roadside Madness, which was inspired by the NCAA’s“March Madness” basketball tournament.

And just like in the NCAA, there were some stunning early round results.

“I think the biggest upset is Selkirk’s catfish, I’m shocked it didn’t make it out of the first round,” said Travel Manitoba’s Kirsten Neil, who noted that some smaller towns have really organized behind their local mascots. “Also Tommy the Turtle (Boissevain) losing to Glenboro’s Sara the Camel. The camel is strong.”

Sara’s Cinderella run to the Elite Eight doesn't surprise Glenboro’s economic development officer, Chris Tanasichuk.

“Sara is known all over, you just have to mention Glenboro,” according to Tanasichuk, who said locals have something of a love-hate relationship with the 17-foot tall dromedary that was erected in 1978.

There’s a link to the Roadside Madness contest on the front page of Glenboro’s website, and Tanasichuk said residents are aggressively working their social networks to help Sara get over the hump against Churchill’s polar bear statue.

As for why Manitobans are so attached to their giant roadside beavers (Dauphin) and smoking pipes (St. Claude), Neil said they’re a rallying point for small towns.

“I just think they’re fun,” she said. “People talk about it and it gives them recognition.”

More than 25,000 votes have already been cast in the competition, which will crown a winner this weekend. See to fill out your bracket.

The Roadside Madness Elite Eight

Polar Bear (Churchill) vs. Sara the Camel (Glenboro)

Happy Rock (Gladstone) vs. Coke Can (Portage la Prairie)

Flintabbatey Flonatin (Flin Flon) vs. The Viking (Gimli)

Windmill (Holland) vs. Viking Ship (Erickson)

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