British Columbia

Exhibit celebrates Prince George's iconic Mr. PG mascot

It's hard to miss the towering Mr. PG when you drive into Prince George. A new exhibit details the popular mascot's long and surprisingly international history.

Mr. PG has been welcoming visitors to Prince George for nearly 60 years

Mr. PG greets visitors to Prince George at the intersection of highways 16 and 97. (The Exploration Place)

When you drive into Prince George, it's hard to miss Mr. PG's big, welcoming smile.

A new exhibit at The Exploration Place Museum and Science Centre is detailing the nearly 60-year history of the city's iconic mascot.

Alyssa Leier certainly remembers her first encounter with Mr. PG.

"I moved to Prince George about seven years ago and I remember driving on Highway 97 and seeing him welcome me to the city," she said. "I got a picture with him that day."

Now she has curated an exhibit on the popular representative of northern B.C.'s largest city.

The Exploration Place curator Alyssa Leier standing beside the famous Iron Jock statue, complete with a cookie tin kilt from Scotland. (Nicole Oud/CBC)

The original Mr. PG was built in 1960 to promote Prince George's forest industry and represent the city. The current Mr. PG stands at the intersection of highways 16 and 97. 

The eight-metre-plus statue has been featured on a postage stamp and even has a song written about him.

Leier's favourite artifact on display is a metre-tall, iron version of Mr. PG that toured B.C. in the early 1960s before somehow getting lost along the way.

Seventeen years later, a local spotted the missing mascot in a Scottish newspaper.

"They found him in a Scottish pub dispensing beer and smoking," said Leier. "They called him the Iron Jock."

International reputation

Mr. PG has made an impression on visitors around the world.

Assistant curator Chad Hellenius once had an international Mr. PG experience of his own, when a gentleman in Cuba asked where in Canada he was from. 

"I said a little town called Prince George. He looked up in the air ... and looked back at me and said, 'Big wooden man right outside the city?'"

An earlier version of Mr. PG stood outside the Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Information Centre in downtown Prince George. (Postcard, the Sam Carter Collection)

The man told Hellenius he had once been in the area for a fishing trip, and the memory of a towering wooden lumberjack stuck with him all those years. 

"I knew clearly that he had been though Prince George," said Hellenius. "You don't make that up and hope that it's right."

Unique finds

The exhibit features various Mr. PG memorabilia, including pins, a decorative plate and children's toys.

Assistant curator Chad Hellenius shows off a homemade Mr. PG plush from the late 1960s. Staff have nicknamed it Mr. Gonzo for its long, droopy nose. (Nicole Oud/CBC)

Hellenius hopes visitors might be able to tell him more about a hand-made plush that was purchased at a local garage sale in the 1970s.

"It's missing an eye ... and it has this wonderful down-turned nose," said Hellenius. "It looks very, very well loved through the years."

Mr. PG turns 60 next year.

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