FROM OUR ARCHIVES: Three Wise Men tradition on roof one of a kind in Canada
The Three Wise Men following a star to Bethlehem to see baby Jesus is an old story. So too now is the tradition of the display atop of the Great-West Life building in Winnipeg.
It’s been going up every year since 1973, a sign the Christmas season has arrived.
Wednesday morning crews started working on the display at 3 a.m. They pulled the wise men and camels out of storage, hoisted them up and positioned them into place.
"[We have to be ] very careful. Cause they will break pretty easy,” said Grant Lucier, who worked on the display.
Retired crane operator Don Cann is 90 years old. For more than 40 years he was intricately involved setting up the display.
He said the strategy to install the display was the same as it is today, use a flat surface and reliable ropes. Last year was the first year Cann fully relinquished his decorating duties with the company.
“I feel sad that age has caught up with us,” he said. “When we were installing them people would ask us when they were going up and that, and how nice they looked."
Each wise man and camel is more than four meters high and weighs about as much as a refrigerator. They're made of plastic, chicken wire, plywood and Styrofoam.
How the display came to be remains a mystery, but the company does know it's one of a kind.
"It’s not something you would see on every street corner or every mall. There are no other camels and riders at least to this size, in the city, the province, or that I’ve even heard of in Canada," said Helen Kasdorf with Great-West Life.
I often get calls or texts from people, ‘Hey are the camels up yet?’, or ‘Hey I saw them up today’, so everybody notices them,” she said.
The Three Wise Men have required repairs over the years, but remain in good condition. Great-West Life said as long they hold up, they'll keep hoisting them up for many more seasons to come.
The display is held down with sandbags and wires to prevent wind from blowing it over.
It was designed by a Winnipeg company called Reimer Display. It's no longer in business.