Bon Soo A Big Part of Our Winter for almost 50 Years!
Noreen Wyper-Allen & Carol Zarudenec Smith for local2 sault ste. marie
January 24th, 2012 at 1:36pm
Leading this provincially recognized winter carnival once again is that dapper gentleman himself, Mr. Bon Soo. Forty-nine years of carnival fare and it just keeps getting bigger and better. So much fun for so many as the carnival spans the ages with a variety of activities, concerts and competitions. Where did it all begin?
The Bon Soo Winter Carnival evolved from the French Canadian, Montreal Carnivale and Bon Soo has a distinct resemblance to Bonhomme de Neige. In the early sixties, Henry Bullock a local businessman introduced the idea of a winter carnival to Sault Ste. Marie. The Chamber of Commerce realized that this could become a huge, annual community event and decided to sponsor it. Taking the reins as chairman, Henry organized a much needed committee. The first Bon Soo Winter Carnival opened in February 1964.
Why February? This was a perfect time of year to break up those “Winter Blues,” create events that would benefit the city and encourage more of our American neighbours to come on over to our side of the bridge and participate in a grand carnival. Besides, it’s a time of year when we can usually sing, “Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow.”
During this period, a local artist by the name of Ken McDougall was hired to create a character. A contest was held in search of a name for the carnival and the character. Donald Norman who was attending Parkland Public School at the time won the contest by submitting the name Bon Soo. This beloved character has remained dear in the community’s hearts, especially the wee ones.
In 1978, The Chamber of Commerce passed the reins over to a committee of citizens that became incorporated, elected a president and formed a Board of Directors. The idea was to have individual groups, organizations and businesses pay an event fee to be part of the ten day carnival helping to defray some of the expenses.
In 1984, under the presidency of Ken Lajambe, the carnival received a one time grant of $75,000 from the “Ministry of Tourism.” To receive this grant, the name had to be changed to the “Ontario Winter Carnival Bon Soo” moving it from a local venue to a provincial one.
In 1989, the Button Program was instituted to once again raise funds to keep the carnival an ongoing success. Annually, the carnival draws around 100,000 participants. This yearly experience has survived through the fundraising ideas, Corporate Membership Program and the Button Program; not to mention the sponsors and volunteers who give so freely from their hearts. Bon Soo 2012 will be another unique experience for kids of all ages. It’s a first! An outdoor laser light show this year will close the opening ceremonies at the Bondar Pavilion on Feb. 3rd. Come out and enjoy Bon Soo.