Hamilton

St. Catharines mulling over how to honour hometown Rush drummer Neil Peart

The mayor told CBC he has a motion coming forward on Jan. 27 to name the new pavilion in Lakeside Park after Peart.

A statue, a street, a plaque and renaming a new pavilion are all possible ideas

Rush drummer Neil Peart performs at the Mandalay Bay Events Center on May 10, 2008 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The rock trio are touring in support of the album, 'Snakes & Arrows.' (Ethan Miller)

St. Catharines is looking to honour its hometown hero and legendary drummer from Rush, Neil Peart, after a grassroots push gained traction online.

Mayor Walter Sendzik, told CBC Wednesday he has a motion coming forward on Jan. 27 to name the new pavilion in Lakeside Park after Peart, while the city is also soliciting other ideas.

"When you look at Neil's history, a lot of his formative years were spent here in St. Catharines and it influenced a lot of his early writing," Sendzik says.

"Whether it's a statue or some kind of public art that allows us to not only celebrate his legacy and his life, but also for the community beyond St. Catharines to come to our community and see it."

While residents can submit their thoughts and ideas to honour the Hamilton-born, St. Catharines-raised drummer to the city using an online survey, other ideas include renaming street names and putting up plaques.

Sendzik says an online petition for a statue also caught his eye — it also has the support of more than 11,000 people.

"As a Rush fan myself … you could sense this growing energy about how we recognize someone who has achieved so much and spent his formative years here in St. Catharines," Walter Sendzik, the Mayor of St. Catharines, tells CBC.

Tony McLaughlin, 50, a life-long resident of St. Catharines and Rush fan, started the rally cry to honour his hometown hero with a statue on change.org.

Growing up, McLaughlin said, he played the drums with a picture of Peart next to his kit.

"When I was a kid growing up in the 70s, he knew someone living next door to us,' McLaughlin says.

"You could tell the guy was a rock star — the long hair he had, the handlebar mustache. There was no mistaking that guy's a rock star."

Tony McLaughlin, 50, has lived in St. Catharines all his life. A drummer himself, he says Neil Peart inspired him. Now that his hero is dead, he's leading the charge to have him honoured in St. Catharines. (Submitted by Tony McLaughlin)

McLaughlin says he always felt Peart should be honoured in the city. Upon hearing about his drumming idol's death, the fan created a petition to start the conversation about erecting a statue in Peart's honour.

If a statue does go up, McLaughlin imagines it standing in Lakeside Park, which was the subject of a Rush song with the same name. And no, it's not the Lakeside Park in Toronto.

"People here in St. Catharines are proud of that and correct people 'oh no, it's the one here,' " McLaughlin says, imagining Peart's statue, complete with his signature hat, cemented in a neighbourhood he grew up in.

From left, Geddy Lee, Neil Peart and Alex Lifeson are the subject of the documentary Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage. ((Alliance Films))

Though, McLaughlin says even renaming a street in adjacent Port Dalhousie or a plaque for Peart would suffice.

"It's a little late, but better late than never," he says.