In a previous column, I suggested that our city might make a place for whimsy in the spending decisions it makes. Looks like our city council thinks so, too. There’s not much that would be more whimsical than an $80,000 balloon. Even if, according to a friend of mine, it looks like some kind of strangely psychedelic ice cream sundae.
According to one of our municipal mavens of madcappery, it’s not just a balloon; it’s a piece of public art. Really? Public art? I guess by that definition those blow-up advertising monstrosities that from time to time adorn buildings in this town are also public art. Whoda thunk it?
According to the same sultana of spin, having a balloon of our very own offers a unique opportunity to engage citizens, build civic pride and celebrate our arts community. We can do all that with a balloon? I had no idea. Engage Edmontonians?
For some reason, I thought it took a whole lot more effort than that. If a balloon can meet that objective, perhaps we should have dozens of them. Civic pride? I am sure that we will all be proud to say “Hi! I’m from Edmonton. You know, the place with the big balloon. New York has the Empire State Building. Paris has the Eiffel Tower, Toronto has the CN Tower, but they are nothing compared to our big garishly-coloured balloon. I kid you not.”
Celebrate our arts community? Having a balloon manufactured in Ontario is an interesting way of honouring our arts community. I am sure members of our arts community will line the parade route and clap with glee when they see our balloon.
It’s been said that an elephant is a mouse designed by committee. Our balloon proves the point. The criteria for the balloon design included highlighting our cultural diversity, recognizing the contribution of Edmonton’s original residents, making an artistic statement and being representative of our city. I think it would be hard to write a novel that did all that. Put down your pens, writers, and take up balloon design.
Come the Capital Ex parade, we will be able to see our hard-earned tax dollars at work. If you go to the parade, here is what you might do as you watch our civic balloon pass by. Ask yourself if instead of being filled with helium it should have been filled with hot air instead.