Big Bruce, the beloved cloven-hoofed bovine of Chesley, Ont., was always meant for greatness.
While wind tumbled his beloved Bruce County Sept. 7, the popular Hereford was declared Ontario's Greatest Roadside Attraction for 2021.
Bruce was plucked from his quiet life in the United States after the stately four-and-a-half metre tall and six metres long fibreglass bull caught the eye of Harvey Davis, a beef farmer and Bruce County warden in the early 1970s.
Davis returned home immediately smitten with Bruce's imposing stature and potential to breed excitement for the beef sector during the 1976 International Plowing Match (IPM) in Bruce County.
It took some cajoling, but Davis convinced the Bruce County Cattlemen's Association (now Bruce County Beef Farmers) into bullying up the $3,000 price tag to bring Bruce home.
Big Bruce made his first official appearance at the IPM before hitting the road in his golden chariot to attend fall fairs, Christmas parades and plowing matches across Ontario.
After Davis died in 1980, Big Bruce came off the road to stand sentry at the township offices, a symbol of Chesley pride and passion for the beef sector, agriculture and community.
Davis's son Mark, now Arran-Elderslie deputy-mayor, said having Big Bruce mounted outside the township's office meant a lot and constantly reminds him of his father's influence.
"We actually just gave (Bruce) a paint job this past year; he was due for a freshen-up. He looks good," said Davis on Big Bruce's TVO Showdown page.
When Big Bruce was nominated as one of 16 large roadside attractions in Ontario to vie for TVO's The Agenda's 2021 Roadside-Attraction Showdown, the community and agriculture associations rallied their support.
In a round-robin style of online voting, the roadside attractions, including the Ottawa's Spider, Moonbeams Flying Saucer, Colborne's Big Apple and Sudbury's Big Nickel, were split into groups of four, with the top two moving forward.
Big Bruce led strongly, securing second place, advancing him to round two against the Beardmore Snowman.
Far from an icy reception, Big Bruce's meteoric climb to 68.9 per cent of the vote left Beardmore Snowman melting in the distance.
While it's not unheard of to see cattle share space with Canada Geese, Bruce left the Wawa Goose flapping in frustration with 53.4 per cent of the votes, securing the prodigious Hereford the final against Kenora's Husky the Muskie.
"We are very pleased with the support from all over Ontario," said Steve Hammell, Arran-Elderslie mayor and Bruce County Councillor.
Perhaps because Chesley and Bruce County have taken "a rising tide lifts all boats" approach to community building, the people of Bruce County and its agricultural associations weren't worried about Bruce being a fish out of water in the finals.
They squared up like a champion in the Ring of Excellence for the Royal Winter Fair's East National Hereford Competition and left the competition gasping when Bruce reeled in 63.3 per cent of the vote.
"He just really stands out. He's like a large friendly animal that children run up to; they don't have any hesitation. He's welcoming," said Hammell. "Big Bruce just brings smiles, laughter and positivity to everyone that is around him."
Hammell said Big Bruce pays respect to the area's rich history of cattle production and opens up conversations about the agriculture sector while providing tourists with fantastic memories and photographs.
"It'll do nothing but good things for the area as far as tourism, and it's nice for us all small town to have something to boast about," said Hammell, adding the council is beginning to plan a celebration to acknowledge the win.
Big Bruce said he was up against a strong field of contenders. However, he came out on top thanks to a supportive community, agriculture associations, and the Bruce County Beef Farmers.
"It's been a nice change to be part of something light-hearted in a year when so many people have had heavy hearts for so many reasons," Bruce said humbly.
"Reach out a helping hand if you can. Please stay safe and be kind to one another. If you're ever in the neighbourhood, stop by sometime and say Hi."