NO, that's NOT the ground condition, but the name of this Ontario town's most unusual "mascot" and one which may yet land it in the Guinness World Book of Records.
"Muddy" is a 50-foot long, 27-foot high statue of a mudcat, also called a catfish. Its permanent home is in Centennial Park at the western entrance to the town of Dunnville, Ontario. While this is a definite roadside attraction, we didn't go to Dunnville to see "Muddy." Instead, we stopped on our way from Niagara Falls to Mississauga (outside Toronto) to visit friends who formerly lived in our home state of New Jersey, before relocating to Canada. Our town tour included a stop at this statue.
Dunnville, which is located at the lot end of the Grand River, has an affinity with this bottom feeder with local baseball and hockey teams, Dunnville Mudcats, and an annual Mudcat Festival n June. Here, the channel mudcat or catfish is not only plentiful, but renowned for its size and not unusual to land a 15- or 20-pounder. So, a VERY large statue would be needed. Its creator, local marina owner Mike Walker, presented designs for the statue and built a scale model. The site is in Centennial Park on Highway #3 at the western entrance to Dunnville near the river. After 3 years in the planning, building and financing, "Muddy" was officially unveiled in mid-November 2009 and has become a roadside attraction listed on several Canada online sites, but not yet in the World Book of Records.
But, Muddy isn't Dunnville's ONLY claim to fame. It's also home of a former World War II Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) Training Base, the No. 6 RCAF Dunnville Museum which preserves artifacts and training aircraft from the No. 6 Service Flying Training School (SFTS). It was one of 41 such facilities built in Canada as part of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP). Built in 1940 on what was farmland, the No. 6 SFTS was an active airfield with five hangars, three double runways, 50 H-huts, a drill hall, a canteen, a fire hall, and other buildings. The site was chosen because it was not near controlled air space and was close to the open water of Lake Erie. It was one of the first Service Flying Training Schools to be built especially to train Air Force pilots. Servicemen from Canada, the UK, Australia, New Zealand and the U.S. trained here and served during World War II in the European Theatre; the first pilot trainees reported in November 1940.
After the war, the No. 6 SFTS was decommissioned and served as the Dunnville Airport. In recent years, wind turbines were erected near the airport and in May 2013 it was closed to flight operations. In the mid-1990s, a group discussed opening the site as a museum, which became a reality in July 2003 with the grand opening of the No. 6 RCAF Dunnville Museum, which includes:
- Extensive displays of military photographs, uniforms, memorabilia, medals, and artifacts
- World War II trainers: a flightworthy Fleet Finch and static displays of a WW I Nieuport 17, and a Grumman Tracker
- Memorial Garden honoring men who lost their lives while training at the No. 6 SFTS
- Library of books and video tapes about aircraft and the men who flew them.
Predominantly featured at the museum and in another part of Dunnville is the North American Harvard 4 airplane. Designed by North American Aviation, this single-engine advanced trainer aircraft was used to train pilots of the U.S. Army Air Forces, U.S. Navy, Royal Air Force and other air forces of the British Commonwealth during World War II and into the 1950s.
The bright yellow plane was a common sight across Canada during WW II. Every fighter pilot heading to war in Europe trained in them before graduating to fighter aircraft, like Spitfires, Hurricanes and Mustangs. The Harvard aircraft is Canada's most distinctive aircraft of the WW II era, used as an advanced trainer by 137,000 aircrew that came from all over the world to learn to fly as part of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plans. The Canadian Harvard was produced in Montreal and while over 2,550 were built, only 25 are left flying.
The plane was known by other designations; Harvard is the name it is best known by outside the U.S. The USAAC and USAAF called it the AT-6. It's a popular aircraft in air show demos and static displays and has been used to simulate the Japanese Mitsubishi Zero in movies depicting WW II.
Thanks to our friends, who are active museum members and supporters, we were able to tour this facility; however I neglected to take photos of the exhibits. The exterior museum photos shown in this post are from the museum's website.