Since its incorporation in 1921, Beiseker has been recognized as an agricultural hub with a pioneering past. In recent decades, it has become known for its local amenities, camping facilities, and fun-loving mascot – Squirt the Skunk.
Squirt became the face of the village in the early 1990s, first making an appearance on merchandise items such as pins, and postcards. The Village of Beiseker now sells a variety of Squirt memorabilia, including key chains, T-shirts, hats, licence plates, postcards and even Beanie bags.
According to the Village’s website, a public contest was held, inviting ideas and drawings for a mascot that would leave a lasting impression on tourists and identify the community.
“As a result, Squirt the Skunk was adopted,” read a statement on the website. “Once the fun-loving caricature of Squirt was developed, plans were put in place for the construction of a larger-than-life replica of our mascot.”
The 13-foot-tall “Squirt” statue is located near the Beiseker campground and Highway 72. The statue is accompanied by a mascot street character costume that is often worn at community events, including parades and local festivals.
Beiseker Mayor Warren Wise said the concept of a mascot was first brought to council at a time when the village did not have any notable figure or character to represent the municipality. Shortly thereafter, a plebiscite went out to residents with several suggestions for a mascot, and one included the cartoon-like skunk.
“The reason for that was that Beiseker has a fairly high [skunk] population in the past and it was almost like a bit of a joke that got taken seriously,” Wise said. “Then they decided on it and it sort of became the official mascot.”
Wise said the mascot is popular with most community members and visitors, but some residents take issue with the connotations that come along with having a skunk as mascot.
“We’ve had some people in the village say, ‘Well, we shouldn’t be a skunk,’ but it’s gone over pretty well, I think,” he said. “It’s kind of locked in now.”
He added the name “Squirt” came as a natural moniker for the stink-spraying critter. He said despite the bad rap skunks often get, the mascot has become somewhat of a drawing card for the community.
“We get a lot of people especially in the summer, when the campground is open, but even in the winter,” he said. “You can see people down there standing in front of the skunk taking selfies.
“It’s quite popular externally to the village and I think most of the people in the village feel it’s kind of a fun mascot to have.”
However, not everyone has taken to Squirt.
According to longtime Beiseker resident Jeannette Richter, the skunk population in the village is cyclical and depends in part on the prevalence of coyotes and foxes in the region.
She said she doesn't feel the local skunk population is higher than in other neighbouring regions, adding “Squirt” is not an appropriate figurehead for the community.
“I haven't really seen a skunk in town for years,” she said. “What I do see when I go out running is a red fox, and so maybe that fox is keeping them away.”
She added at the time the skunk mascot was first introduced in the community, there was marked resistance from some of the village's more established families.
“It was mostly from long-time residents that lived here and were proud of their community and the hard work that had been done by their parents and grandparents,” she said. “They objected to the image of a skunk because the skunk is a varmint – you don't want it in your yard.”
She said the idea of a red fox as a mascot, due to their high population in the region, was proposed but rejected by council.
“I've seen more red foxes than I have seen skunks lately and I thought that would be a more appropriate symbol,” she said. “I'm a person who really believes in symbols – symbols mean something.”
Richter said although the skunk is not her preference, she understands why some in the community are fond of Squirt.
“I know there are people that love the giggle factor of the skunk and people come to town and buy T-shirts for it,” she said. “I get that, [but] it doesn't represent our community.”
Wise said despite the contention Squirt may have at times caused in the community, the character is here to stay.
“It’s a fun thing, I mean, let’s face it – it’s not serious,” he said. “People seem to like it, so I certainly don’t see any sign of anybody ever deciding to change it.”