Sorry, Halifax: Theodore Tugboat is enjoying its fame in Saint John
SAINT JOHN, N.B. -- It's only been in Saint John for a couple of days, but a Haligonian tugboat is already a big hit in New Brunswick.
A replica of the titular main character in the children's television series "Theodore Tugboat," Theodore Too will spend the summer in the New Brunswick port city after living in the Halifax harbour for the past 18 years.
The beloved tugboat swept into the Saint John harbour on Thursday before a crowd of eager spectators, and will remain there until its departure back to Nova Scotia in October.
Miranda McCollum, 29, and her toddler Kyler Daigle-McCollum were part of Theodore's Saint John welcoming committee.
"Even though it was foggy, we sat there and watched him come in the harbour, tooting," she said in a phone interview Saturday. Kyler "was amazed. He was standing and clapping and cheering."
Like many Atlantic Canadians, McCollum grew up watching "Theodore Tugboat," which originated in Halifax and chronicled the adventures of Theodore and his friends in the Big Harbour.
The tugboat's much-anticipated visit bodes well for New Brunswick, according to Discover Saint John executive director Victoria Clarke.
During a phone interview Saturday, she said Theodore's affable presence will act as both a tourist attraction and a way to get more locals on the waterfront this summer.
"Locals are just absolutely delighted to see his smiling face in our port," she said, adding that Theodore fans span multiple generations. "Folks that have grown up watching him on TV and have not had the opportunity to see him in Halifax now have a closer-to-home opportunity."
Theodore's time in New Brunswick will be a mix of work and play: on its work days, the tugboat will host harbour tours and cruise excursions and welcome new ships to the port.
It will spend its off time hunkered down at Pugsley Slip, a prominent spot on the Saint John waterfront.
Paula Copeland, a spokeswoman with Port Saint John, said the city doesn't have the variety of boat tours that Halifax does, and that Theodore's stay will help fill that gap.
"We don't have a lot of water product for tourism," she said. "And of course, we're a cruise port, so it's going to be great for the cruise business to have that availability there."
She added that the boat's presence alone helps brighten the waterfront.
"You can't not smile when you look at him," she laughed.
Theodore's arrival in New Brunswick, however, was not without controversy.
Ambassatours Gray Line, the company that owns the boat, announced last month that Theodore will spend the summer away from home -- much to the annoyance of some Haligonians, who took to social media to accuse the smiling, baseball-cap-clad vessel of treachery.
But Ambassatours spokeswoman Terri McCulloch said Halifax has had Theodore for many years, and it's time someone else gets a turn.
"Obviously, the show was set in Halifax and Haligonians have a great affinity for Theodore. He's definitely been a fixture on the waterfront," she said.
"It caught a few folks by surprise, and certainly, we didn't mean to offend anyone. He's still in the region here, so perhaps it's a nice opportunity for someone to take a little trip over on the ferry (from Digby, N.S.) and pop over to Saint John's and see how he's doing over there."
She also pointed out that Theodore has already spent time outside of Halifax, noting it has spent several summers in Quebec and embarked on a 50-city tour along the Eastern seaboard about 10 years ago.
On Sunday, Port Saint John is hosting its annual Community Day, which is expected to draw thousands of people to the waterfront to take a gander at the famous boat.