In My Opinion: Why tribute to Conrad the raccoon won’t be on Woodbine Beach for Winter Stations

CONRAD, in honour of a Toronto raccoon that died on the corner of Yonge and Church streets in 2015, is not one of the six Winter Stations 2023 art installations that will be displayed at Woodbine Beach this winter. CONRAD will be on display in Mississauga. Image supplied by Winter Stations.

By ALAN SHACKLETON

EDITOR, BEACH METRO COMMUNITY NEWS

Everybody is being nice and saying all the right things about next month’s Winter Stations 2023 art installations planned for Woodbine Beach.

So let me be the one to address the dead raccoon on the beach. Or lack thereof.

Plain and simple, I think the Beach is getting the short end of the Winter Stations stick when it comes to this year’s installations.

Specifically I’m talking about CONRAD, the statue in honour of a raccoon that died in downtown Toronto in 2015. Really, this is what I’m talking about.

Earlier this month, the eight winners for Winter Stations 2023 were announced. Now, six of these installations will be set up on Woodbine Beach (as has been taking place since 2015) starting on Family Day and continuing through to the end of March.

That’s great. I love Winter Stations. It’s such a positive and fun event as well as being a sign that spring is getting closer.

But this year I’m not feeling it so much.

And that’s CONRAD’S fault.

Actually, to be more precise, it’s Mississauga’s fault.

Here’s the problem. CONRAD is the installation that’s getting all the attention. It’s the one I suspect most people will be lining up to get their selfies with and then pushing them out on every form of social media known to humanity and all of the dead raccoon-o-verse.

How could it not be a social media magnet? It’s a statue in honour of a dead raccoon that has had its own hashtag for more than seven years.

“Conrad was the name of a raccoon that died on the corner of Yonge and Church in the summer of 2015. And though Conrad was just a raccoon, he was human enough to inspire compassion and warmth in the hearts of Torontonians. This is a monument in his honour,” said the designers of the installation.

A sidewalk memorial was created beside Conrad’s body which included photos, flowers and cards. The memorial grew around the raccoon’s body as a wait of 14 hours for it to be collected began. Conrad had his own hashtag #DeadRaccoonTO that July day in 2015, along with lots of media attention.

Only in Toronto, you say. But you’d be wrong.

And so where will the CONRAD installation be on display for Winter Stations 2023 you may well ask? Why at 1381 Lakeshore Rd. in Mississauga of course.

Hold it one second here. Why does Mississauga get to have the Beach’s (Toronto’s) raccoon? Don’t they have their own famous dead raccoons to build art installations in honour of?

Here’s why. Winter Stations obviously needs sponsors in order to be able to present its wonderful and free art exhibition. It takes time and money to get those installations put up, and that comes with a cost.

And I guess one of the ways to attract sponsors is to give them a say on where some of the installations might be put on display beyond just Woodbine Beach.

And that’s why CONRAD goes to Mississauga. One of the sponsors, and who can blame them, saw how popular the installation would be and put dibs on it for their location.

I suppose this is the inevitable result of the huge popularity of Winter Stations. But I don’t have to like it.

Remember, Winter Stations’ intent is to celebrate “Toronto’s winter waterfront landscape and aims to draw people outside to interact with installations, the winter and each other.”

The installations are designed to be built around the lifeguard station chairs along Woodbine Beach — hence the very name Winter Stations.

I’m not trying to disparage the six installations that will be on Woodbine Beach. They are all inspired works of art and they will be a pleasure for people to view and interact with. Details on them are in our story that starts on Page 1 of our Jan. 24 paper. (The story is also online at https://beachmetro.com/2023/01/12/winter-stations-2023-reveals-selection-of-eight-art-installations-to-be-displayed-along-woodbine-beach/ )

But there’s no way around it, I am sour about CONRAD being in Mississauga. To me, the whole thing stinks like a dead raccoon on a summer day.


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