Running a thriving feed and tack business is just horse sense for Meredith Dean, owner of the Trading Post Feed and Tack store in Cassidy, south of Nanaimo.
The store sells what its name implies, but if the sign on the front of the building doesn’t catch the notice of motorists passing by on the Trans Canada Highway, a horse mannequin named Cantelope nearly always does. Dean dresses up the horse in costumes for almost every occasion and holiday and sets it out next to the highway in front of her store.
Over the years Cantelope – so named because it “can’t lope” according to a story on the store’s website – has been decked out in Christmas and Halloween outfits, decorated for St. Patrick’s Day and Valentine’s Day and was even wore a homemade space suit and helmet for the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing.
Most recently Dean took a cue from the COVID-19 epidemic and dressed up Cantelope as B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, attired in a white blouse under a bright pink sweater, a red and white necklace, homemade pink and red pumps and a blonde wig. A speaker’s podium with fake microphones completed the set-up.
Dean chose to pay tribute to Henry out of admiration for the doctor’s calm demeanour during her daily pandemic briefings broadcast over the past few months.
“She’s so calm and reassuring and when she tells you to do something you just want to do what she says,” Dean said. “She’s kind of like a mom. Everybody loves her.”
The image of Cantelope dressed as Henry posted on the store’s Facebook page drew a lot of attention.
“There was over 23,000 views of that,” Dean said. “That was the absolute most we’ve ever had and the comments are amazing, how much everybody loves Bonnie Henry.”
Passersby stopped in daily, sometimes even taking the effort to take the U-turn route at Nanaimo Airport on the divided highway to double back and take selfies and snaps of friends and family with the horse.
“So many people have stopped and taken their picture. We’d say, hey we’ve got a customer, but no, they’re just getting their picture taken with Bonnie Henry,” Dean said.
Dean said friends of the doctor even stopped in to take photos, and confirmed that how Henry appears on TV is how she is all the time.
“We were a little afraid she’d be offended if she saw herself, as a horse, dressed up, and the hair, but they said, ‘Oh, no. She’s got a great sense of humour,’” Dean said.
As of Monday, Cantelope switched costumes for Father’s Day, into a black wig, black moustache and coveralls and a smaller horse, Honeydew, is beside him wearing a pink wig and a tutu.
“It’s a father-daughter thing,” Dean said.