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 that depicted a smiling black and white Happy Rock with a top hat, his right arm waving, and his left arm holding a serving towel. 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. An initial application was made to the Community Places Grant Program to provide funding up to 25% of the total project cost and this application was approved. On a grass roots level, the committee was able to raise funds through various methods. Volunteers offered their time at 2 fundraising bingos, the committee held 3 fall ticket cash prize draws, the Chamber organized 2 banquet dinners, the committee received a no interest repayable loan from local businessman Jay Boschman, and in addition, countless hours of volunteer service were donated for the project.
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. F.A.S.T. indicated that the project would take approximately 4 months to complete and the terms of payment would be ½ the total price down, ¼ of the price upon completion and ¼ of the price when delivered. 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, the Happy Rock serves as a symbol for Gladstone as well as visitor information centre and continues to be operated by the Chamber of Commerce. Various Chamber of Commerce promotional material bears the Happy Rock insignia– advertising and tourist collectibles (pins, glasses, key chains etc.). The information centre, which is maintained by a summer student, operates during the summer months from the long weekend in May until the Labour Day weekend in September. Each year a number of visitors stop at the centre where they can access road information, purchase promotional material, or simply relax at the picnic area and take a picture of themselves with the Happy Rock.