Most tourists and visitors who have driven along the Yellowhead Route can recall a landmark that is situated in the community of Gladstone, Manitoba – The Happy Rock.
The concept of the Happy Rock goes back to the late 1970s when the provincial government held brainstorming sessions with community representatives to develop and implement strategies for increasing tourism traffic and inevitably tourism dollars in their respective rural communities.
Gladstone has always been referred to as "Happy Rock” and the consensus felt that a method to attract tourism to the town was to position Gladstone as Happy Rock.
In 1984, the local Chamber of Commerce decided that they needed a mascot to represent the name Happy Rock so a logo contest was held. Jerry Wickstead, a student from William Morton Collegiate in Gladstone, submitted the winning entry.
The Chamber of Commerce registered Happy Rock as a trademark and in 1988, a resolution was passed by the Chamber to pursue the construction of a Happy Rock statue/visitor information centre. Many communities in the province had an identifiable feature and Gladstone needed to be included. A committee of Chamber representatives (Tom Scott, Lyle Cox, and Gary Cibula) was formed to source out manufacturers, prepare operating budgets, and propose various methods of fundraising for the project.
Fundraising for the project began in 1991 and lasted until 1993. A Community Places Grant provided funding for up to 25% of the total project cost, the rest was covered by fundraising and a no interest repayable loan from local businessman, Jay Boschman.
Geremia Blackie Cibinel architects from Winnipeg prepared the blue prints for the Happy Rock from specifications produced by the organizing committee. The F.A.S.T. Corporation out of Sparta, Wisconsin was selected to manufacture the Happy Rock at a cost of $33,800 US.
The design dimensions of the Happy Rock were 25’ High (the rock itself would be 15’ and the base would be 10’) and the base itself would be 17 ½’ wide. The base of the Happy Rock would house a visitor’s information centre as well as public washroom facilities. The proposed fibre glass constructed "Rock” would weigh around 700 kilograms. The committee flew down to Wisconsin to inspect and monitor the progress of construction and witnessed the Happy Rock being constructed in 4 phases – hat, body, arms and base.
Besides the actual construction of the Rock, site preparation had to be completed. The architectural firm provided blue prints on the development of the site itself. Joe and Aida Figueiredo and Duncan and Marg Broadfoot donated land, and easements were provided for the site. Local contractors were hired or offered in kind services to develop the site – landscaping, electrical, and waste management.
The final cost of the project was just under $92,000. Happy Rock was officially opened as a tourist information center on July 1st 1993 culminating a process that had begun many years prior. The result was a mascot that conjures up an image of a Happy Rock and one that has become a recognizable landmark for thousands of travelers along the Yellowhead Highway.
Today, although the tourist booth has closed, the Happy Rock still serves as a symbol for Gladstone. Various Chamber of Commerce promotional material bears the Happy Rock insignia– advertising and tourist collectibles. These collectibles are available at both the Gladstone Pharmacy and Clarke's of Gladstone gift shop. Happy Rock was also featured in the Canada Post Roadside Attraction stamp series, launched July 5, 2010.