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London Community News – Dec 20, 2012

Dec 19, 2012  |   

Hamilton Road sharing a piece of the Forest City with the world


London Community News by Sean Meyer

They say big things often have small beginnings. That certainly appears to be the case on Hamilton Road at least as an idea Dave Broostad had to fix up his front yard is spreading across the east end community.

Back in November 2010, Broostad, president of Full Circle Group Benefit Consultants and an executive member of the Hamilton Road Area Business Association, was trying to figure out what to do with the dead tree in his front yard. Broostad didn’t want the tree taken down, as it would leave a pretty big hole —visually speaking — in his front yard. So after some discussions with wood carver Robbin Wenzoski, it was decided the tree would be sculpted into a piece of art, complete with a moose head on top.

As it turned out, people soon took notice.

“I had people coming by just to see the moose, and I would go out and talk to the people, tell them about what it was, what was going on. And so I started thinking we might have something here,” Broostad said. “The thing is, on my street, if you call the cops, the fire or the pizza guy, you talk about how many doors down you are from the moose. So in the summer, we started talking to people about this idea and they started getting really excited.”

That excitement has grown to the point Broostad’s moose is now just one part of a much larger exhibition. The Hamilton Road trunks are now tied in with the others in the downtown as part of Tourism London’s Tree Trunk Tour.

By the end of the year Broostad estimates 20 tree carvings will be part of the tour, the majority of which will be found in the area along Hamilton Road.

“It isn’t about any one carving; it is about the whole idea. People will want to come to London; they will want to come to Hamilton Road to see these carvings,” Broostad said. “There is something really significant — from a tourism standpoint — that will come from this, particularly when we get exposure from across the world.”

The worldwide exposure Broostad is counting on will come in the form of the thousands of people who travel to London this coming March for the 2013 World Figure Skating Championships. The London Tree Trunk Tour will be one of the local attractions promoted to visitors and TV executives from around the world who are looking to enjoy a little local colour.

John Winston, general manager Tourism London, said the tour will be one of the initiatives he hopes will show that the Forest City lives up to its name.

“I think it is a wonderful supplement to what we have been recently doing. The enthusiasm and the commitment they have to this is quite extraordinary,” Winston said. “What they are doing is they are trying to create a brand or some kind of identity for the Hamilton Road business district, which I think is an exemplary initiative.”

Broostad is quite excited when he speaks about an opportunity to help shape a new identity for Hamilton Road.

“There are 160 million people who will watch this on TV. Twenty-five networks all looking for cute little human interest stories,” Broostad said. “And here will be this old east London street that has fixed itself up with these carvings. What we have to do more is really start promoting Hamilton Road and this is a great way of putting us on the map. More than one map.”

Each of the carvings in the tour are going to have a QR code (abbreviated from Quick Response Code) at the base that will take people to a website that will have a little something about the carvers, the businesses sponsoring the individual piece, and a story about the individual carving.

That sponsorship component is what makes the Hamilton Road carvings possible. At a cost of approximately $5,000 apiece, Broostad says it would be tough for many area businesses to be able to afford to participate in the initiative.

However, Broostad said that thanks to Tourism London and STIHL Canada each picking up one-third of the cost, the initiative now becomes affordable to local businesses.

“If it weren’t for them, this wouldn’t happen. STIHL provides the carvers with the saws, the equipment. The Canadian head office is here in London, so they have really supported us all the way,” Broostad said. “And Tourism London has been great too. That is what makes it manageable for the community to be a part of this.”

Partnerships like that are what Mayor Joe Fontana has long championed. With the financial incentives in place to help Hamilton Road businesses (Winston said the grant program isn’t forever, but they haven’t put a limitation on it either) Fontana said the area residents have really caught on to something.

“Hamilton Road has always been a very diverse community in terms of population, in terms of entrepreneurs; it is where a lot of people started their future in London,” Fontana said. “Now Hamilton Road has an opportunity to establish itself, to rebuild itself, to come alive again.”
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