Oak Lake's most famous resident is back out in public after getting a makeover.
Many will remember Isaac the Ox pulling his Red River cart on the western edge of town, an iconic feature of the Lions Campground. More recently, fans could see him atop a pole on the eastern side of town where he had been perched to prevent vandalism.
But today, Isaac seems content to have all four hoofs planted on the ground again, this time right in the heart of Oak Lake.
Last Friday, after several months in a workshop being restored, Isaac the Ox was re-introduced to his adoring fans and reunited with his cart, together again after a long separation. They now enjoy pride of place in the park right across from the main shopping area of town.
A new pasture
Carleigh Babiak, Oak Lake's Economic Development Officer, says Isaac was "looking pretty weathered on his pole so we pulled him down and made him a new pasture here." Downtown was chosen in an effort to attract sightseers with money to spend.
What makes them so sure travelers will leave the highway to see him? Because they already do.
Babiak has had strangers come to her home, which is near Isaac's vacant pole, asking where he went. She laughs, "People showed up at my house this summer when he was in the shop. So I took them over there to have their picture taken with him."
It seems Isaac has also helped many motorcycle club members earn a patch for visiting 20 monuments.
"He's my baby!"
The 30-year-old bovine looks as good as new thanks to a significant community effort.
Taxidermist and public works staffer Cody Denbow did the fibreglass body work, Fire Chief David Houston restored the ox cart, and Babiak says, "I did all the painting on him, so he is my baby!"
Many other volunteers came together Friday, Oct. 12 to throw a street party that included live music, a free barbecue, bouncy castle and of course the stoic Isaac silently watching over it all.
Lorrie Roulette of the Community Development Board thanked volunteers on social media, saying, “They planned, painted, dug, leveled, screwed, nailed, welded, shopped, delivered, cemented, wood chipped, bolted, raked and cooked. THEY made it happen.”
In 1988, the Oak Lake Lions Club commissioned the building of a statue to be the official town mascot - an ox pulling a Red River cart, an important symbol of pioneer settlement.
Eight years later, the area’s economic development board decided to bring in a live ox from the Mennonite Heritage Village in Steinbach and give him a retirement home in Oak Lake. When he died, another was donated.
But caring for live oxen had its challenges so the town focused on Isaac the statue, who was first placed at the campground and then on the pole at the west entrance to Oak Lake before his most recent move downtown.