British Columbia

Call Me (Alpine) Al: Smithers gets new town mascot

Since 1973, "Alpine Al" has been a fixture in the town of Smithers, but over 40 years of weather has done a number on the piece. On Monday, the town got a fresh Al to replace the old one.

New chainsaw carving of mountain man with alphorn replaces worn-out statue in place since 1973

Artist Joerg Jung stands with the new version of Alpine Al erected in Smithers on Oct. 3. (Joerg Jung)

He's seven feet tall, carved by chainsaw, borne of 1,000-year-old red cedar, and he's the (sort of) new mascot for the town of Smithers.

A wood sculpture called Alpine Al has been standing in the town since 1973, but time and elements took its toll on the wooden wonder.

On Monday, a new version of the statue was erected, carved by chainsaw sculptor Joerg Jung.

"If you recreate something with a piece of wood, which is a live material, you always have to improve a little bit and work with the wood … but I think I got him pretty close to the original," Jung told Radio West host Audrey McKinnon.

An attempt to save the original was unsuccessful. The town tried to encase the work in a fibreglass envelope, but water continued to cause damage.

Jung says he's become aware of the place the original Alpine Al held in the hearts of many in Smithers.

"They made it the guardian of Main Street Smithers," he said, referring to the statue's long-time home.

"They printed him on pretty much everything in Smithers. You will see him on the local tourist information centre and signs on downtown Smithers and all over the place. Over the years, it grew into an icon of the town."

He expects the new Al should last several decades.

"Everybody seems to be pretty pleased with my work, which is the best part of the job," he said.

With files from CBC Radio One's Radio West

To hear the full story, click the audio labelled: Call Me (Alpine) Al: Smithers gets new town mascot