For years, small towns located along busy highways and byways have erected larger-than-life roadside attractions, in hopes of drawing tourists to their communities. Often, these “world’s biggest” attractions are sculptures representing something the town is known for, such as an industry, local wildlife, or some other familiar symbol.
Vegreville, Alberta is famous for its giant, 31-foot-long Ukrainian-style Easter egg. Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan is home to “Mac the Moose,” the world’s largest bull moose, standing at 32 feet in height. Kenora, Ontario, situated on the Lake of the Woods, has “Husky the Muskie,” a 40-foot-tall sculpture of a muskellunge. Shediac, New Brunswick boasts the world’s biggest lobster, measuring 35 feet in length. The list goes on and on across Canada, with plenty of other examples of one-of-a-kind wonders.
The Crowsnest Crows
The photo above proudly shows our very own Crowsnest Pass version of a roadside attraction. It’s located on Main Street (20th Ave.) in Blairmore. Constructed in 1958, the sculpture is of a 12-foot-long crow perched atop a 20-foot-tall tree, with a baby crow in a nest on the opposite side. It was designed and created by local artist, Franz Josef Koci, when he was a student at the Alberta College of Art and Design in Calgary. The crows are made of concrete, each weighing about a ton. The structure is reinforced with steel railway rails running through the tree trunk. I don’t recall ever seeing any advertising claiming it’s the “world’s biggest crow” but it very well may have been just that when it was built.
Two such crow sculptures were commissioned by the Blairmore Board of Trade. One was erected at the east end of town, close to where the Royal Canadian Legion is currently located, and the other was set up on the west end of Main Street, where it remains to this day.
At the time, Highway 3 passed directly through Main Street in Blairmore, and everyone passing through town would have seen both crow sculptures. With the realignment of the highway in 1983, traffic was rerouted to the north side of the Crowsnest River, completely bypassing Blairmore and all its businesses. It was likely around this time that the sculpture at the east end of Blairmore was moved to Bellevue. What remains of this one can be seen at the east access into Bellevue, next to the Bellcrest Community Campground.
The Worse for Wear
2018 marks the 60th anniversary of these unique Crowsnest Pass sculptures. Over the years, repairs and modifications have been made to maintain their appearance and structural integrity. However, the passing of time, combined with the effects of weather and wind has taken its toll, particularly with the Bellevue sculpture. The large crow at the top of the tree has been gone for a number of years, a victim of the persistent winds that blow through this part of the Pass. After one particular windstorm event, it was left dangling upside-down from its lofty perch. The heavy concrete crow was removed a short time later. The Blairmore sculpture has fared much better and appears to be in pretty good condition.
Hope on the Horizon?
There has been some discussion in recent years of repairing the Bellevue sculpture or even replacing it with a new one. All the while, the baby crow in Bellevue is waiting patiently for the return of its mother. I hope it won’t have to wait too much longer. It would be great for this once proud sculpture to have something to crow about, again.
As more and more towns across our province and country are being bypassed by high-speed freeways, fewer roadside attractions like our beloved Crowsnest Crows are likely to be seen by those travelling through the area. Nowadays, the majority of motorists driving along Highway 3 are in too much of a hurry to get to their destination to bother turning into any of our towns. That’s unfortunate because the communities of Crowsnest Pass, including Bellevue, Hillcrest, Frank, Blairmore, and Coleman have so much to offer. The Pass is a great place to stop and stretch your legs, and perhaps grab a bite to eat, shop, visit our museum and art gallery, or spend time checking out the various historical sites.
The world’s largest crow sculpture currently resides in Belgrade, Minnesota. It’s made of fiberglass and is supported inside with a metal skeleton. Constructed in 1988, the crow is 18 feet tall and stands on a 31-foot-long branch atop a 25-foot-tall concrete pedestal. It’s an impressive-looking crow alright, but there’s no nest or baby bird on display with it. I suspect the Blairmore crow sculpture is still the world’s biggest of its kind. That is – a crow with a nest, and a baby to look after.
Article References & Credits
Crowsnest Pass Herald
Franz Josef Koci article by Anna Kroupina (May 3, 2017)
Lethbridge Herald Digital Archives
World’s Largest Crow – RoadsideAmerica.com
Crowsnest Crows Postcards