Tommy, a 10,000 lb, 28 ft tall Turtle, is so much more than the fiberglass and resin that makes up his outer core. He is Boissevain’s mascot, its international representative, its biggest fan.
Forty-one years ago, on Tuesday, July 16, 1974, Tommy arrived in Boissevain to the accompaniment of a convoy of cars and the local fire truck. Two days later, on Thursday, July 18, Tommy was placed onto his home at the corner of Mountain Street and #10 Highway, where he has etched himself into Boissevain’s past, present and future. He watches over Boissevain from his 22 foot high perch as well as any mascot could.
The cost to bring Tommy to Boissevain was not a small one and some shopping around was done. The tall order of one English phrase speaking giant turtle would prove to be a hard one to fill. Finally, after contract problems with its first choice company, the town decided to go with Barone Sculptures of Winnipeg, who had previously sculpted Gimli’s Viking, Flin Flon’s Founder and the White Horse of White Horse Plains.
Wayne Pringle, Harry George and Jack Houston (who also happened to be members of the Boissevain Lions Club) along with George A. Dyck and Robert Warnez of the community, volunteered to co-sign a loan to cover the cost of the statue and site preparation. Eventually the Turtle Derby festival raised funds to pay off the loan and the cleared deed was placed in Tommy’s right shoulder, where it is believed to be still located to this day.
The turtle was originally erected as a symbolic icon for the community and the historic summer Canadian Turtle Derby. On August 25, 1972 Boissevain held its first annual Turtle Derby, and spectators enjoyed the excitement generated by the festivities surrounding the turtle racing competitions. The growing enthusiasm of turtle racing became a major tourism attraction for Boissevain. However, in 2001 the community ended the Turtle Derby, but “Tommy Turtle” still warmly greets visitors to the community.