by EVAN MATTHEWS
The fire hydrants in McBride have had personality for almost 10 years, but the hydrants are about to have more colour.
At its Jun. 13 meeting, McBride Council sent a letter to Sheilagh Foster, member of the Whistle Stop Gallery Society, granting permission to paint local fire hydrants.
“There will be some new ones being painted, and lots that may be completely re-done, versus others that may just be spruced up,” says Foster.
“When we first did it (in 2007), it was very popular and quite a big success in terms of tourists and locals being interested,” she says, making note of a map identifying different characters around town.
Foster estimates there are currently 45 hydrants in McBride with a custom paint job. By the end of the 2017 version of the project, every hydrant in McBride will have a custom paint job, she says.
Foster gives a lot of credit to Darrell and Diane Roth of the Whistle Stop Gallery Society for being so keen. In 2007 the Roth’s approached businesses and individuals about sponsoring the painting of a hydrant.
Back then, she recalls sponsoring a hydrant going for about $50 per.
This go-around of the project is in the very early stages, according to Whistle Stop Gallery Society member Dannielle Alan, saying the society needs to assess how much the project will cost and how much it will cost to sponsor a hydrant.
The project is a not for profit, with the intention only to pay the artist for his or her work, while adding some fun to McBride’s streets.
“The fire hydrants become characters,” says Foster.
“Some have said, ‘Oh I’d like you to paint my Green Uncle John who was a good local cowboy,’ for example, so we’d have this cowboy image on one.
“There was a school principal or a cook, you can pick whatever,” she says.
Other situations existed where people would sponsor a hydrant, but give the artist creative freedom to decide on a character, Foster says.
Over the years there has been some degradation to the hydrants, she says, with couple hydrants being removed for one reason or another. The plan now is to refurbish them, and paint the new hydrants that have replaced the old.
In terms of protocol and clearing the project with the local fire department, Foster says the artist has complied with the Fire Chief’s direction.
A young artist – Coral-Ann Mazereeuw -will be creating each hydrant’s custom personality.
“She’s itching to get going,” says Foster.