New Knuckles for Ukee as mascot gets upgrade

Ucluelet’s beloved mascot Knuckles the Grey Whale is in line for an upgrade.

Knuckles will continue to be a locally representative grey whale but a new outfit will allow Knuckles to handle the West Coast’s wet weather and therefore attend more events, according to Ucluelet chamber of commerce executive director Sue Payne. Tourism Ucluelet’s administrative assistant Denise Stys-Norman said the process to find a new Knuckles has just begun and there is no timeline for when the switch will be made.

“There is not a hard and fast deadline for when our new version of Knuckles will be created,” she said.

Stys-Norman has been reaching out to mascotbuilding companies to determine what they can do, how long it would take them, and how much it would cost.

She said she has already received sketches and quotes from several companies and once a company is selected it will likely take about 6-8 weeks for the costume to be completed. “We are just in the process of deciding who is going to be creating him and all the final details,” she said. “It’s very early days.”

The current Knuckles was born in 2001 at the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California and brought to Ucluelet by Marilyn McEwen and Lance Blackwell.

“Knuckles has been around for 15 years so we felt it prudent that we revamp him a little bit,” Stys-Norman said.

While he waits for his new suit to arrive, Knuckles will continue to greet locals and visitors in his original outfit.

“We want Knuckles to be out for people to see, we want him to be friendly and welcoming,” Stys-Norman said. “Who doesn’t love a gray whale walking around town…standing there ready to give someone a hug?” Knuckles’ fresh appearance won’t be the only new face ready greeting visitors this summer as Tourism Ucluelet has hired Renaud Gagne to serve as a Ucluelet ambassador.

“The purpose of the ambassador is to be a point of reference in town for people to approach and ask questions,” Stys-Norman said.

Renaud will be frequenting Ucluelet’s tourist-heavy areas providing local knowledge to visitors and filming testimonials for Tourism Ucluelet’s marketing materials.

His first taste of the job came during the Pacific Rim Whale Festival and Stys-Norman said Renaud has already banked video footage and positive feedback from Ucluelet’s guests.

reporter@westerlynews.ca