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Vancouver Park Board abides by Dude Chilling Park

Jimmy Kimmel enchanted by sign
Photo Dan Toulgoet
The Dude Chilling Park sign earned international attention.

While late night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel is considering a move to Canada, legions of dedicated fans (also known as “achievers”) of the cult classic film The Big Lebowski are considering pilgrimages to Vancouver.

The catalyst for the international attention Vancouver is receiving of late is not the start of the Olympic Games in Sochi, to which this city played host four years ago, but rather a small East Side park and a public art installation declaring the tiny green space “Dude Chilling Park.”

For anyone not familiar with the now infamous art piece, it mysteriously appeared in Guelph Park on Brunswick Street at East Seventh in November 2012 as an exact replica of an official park board sign. The name pays homage to the Reclining Figure sculpture by Michael Dennis that lies in the park.

The sign was quickly removed but a petition was immediately launched to bring it back. The park board voted last week to reinstall the sign in its original location and erect an adjacent plaque describing the piece and referencing the Coast Salish connection to the land. The park will still officially be known as Guelph Park. Guelph was Queen Victoria’s family name.

Following that vote, considered a victory for “achievers” everywhere, spread via social media. The Big Lebowski is a 1998 movie starring Jeff Bridges as “the Dude,” an unmarried slacker who loves to bowl.

On Feb. 3, USA TODAY baseball editor @GabeLacques wrote on Twitter, “Canada wins again RT @ParkBoard It’s official, Guelph Park has new public art! “Dude Chilling Park” sign approved.” Meanwhile, another Twitter user posted this ode to Vancouver, “Honestly canada? I f_____g love y’all up north...”

But it was the Jimmy Kimmel show last week that had the Twitterverse buzzing. In his opening monologue, the late night host showed a clip of CTV anchor Keri Adams announcing the move, along with a short clip of Vision Vancouver park board commissioner Sarah Blyth discussing the sign. At the end of the clip Kimmel announced, “Between Dude Chilling Park and Rob Ford, I might have to move to Canada.”

Blyth told the Courier she was surprised to see herself on Jimmy Kimmel Live.

“Art is supposed to start discussion, but I wasn’t expecting it from him,” said Blyth. “But people were tweeting from all over the world, even from Berlin, Paris, Chicago and New York. We got a lot of comments from New York.”

Blyth said the sign makes passersby smile, which is important in these hectic times.

“People have stressful lives. I have two jobs and a son I’m raising on my own. I watch the news on TV and it’s a downer,” said Blyth. “But I know that when I walk by that sign it’s going to make me smile.”

Blyth was also happy about the attention the park is receiving from Big Lebowski fans. In a column dedicated to the Dude Chilling Park sign in the Atlantic Cities newspaper, staff writer John Metcalfe wrote in part, “Ascribe this victory to the all-consuming cosmic energy of The Big Lebowski: Over the cries of a vocal minority of residents, the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation has designated a green space as ‘Dude Chilling Park.’”

Metcalfe continued, “The saga of ‘Dude Chilling Park — which Lebowski purists no doubt will correct as ‘Dude Abiding Park’  — began in November [2012] when an artist covered the original Guelph sign with a fake but totally relaxing Dude version. The new sign was a reference to a nearby public sculpture depicting a person taking a load off in a major Dude-worthy recline...”

Even the Main Street Poodle (@MainStreetPoodle) chimed in on Twitter. Main Street Poodle is a Twitter account dedicated to a public art piece that  includes a large poodle on a pole, which when first erected caused much discussion regarding its relevance.
@ParkBoard How about naming my little park: Poodle Place, Dog Chilling Park or Neighbourhood Cat Extermination Zone?” @MainStreetPoodle wrote in response to the sign.

sthomas@vancourier.com
twitter.com/sthomas10