He’s probably the most iconic winter carnival symbol in all of Canada. Mr. Bon Soo – the mascot that has been part of the winter carnival since day one back in 1964.
Back before the first carnival started, a name was needed. A contest was held and ultimately won by a then ten-year old student at Parkland Public School, Donald Norman. His winning entry was, of course, “Bon Soo”. A play on the French word “bon”, meaning good, and “Soo”, the nickname for Sault Ste. Marie.
While the logo hasn’t changed much over the years, the real life Mr. Bon Soo has undergone some dramatic changes over the 53 years, most notably , his size. Four different generations of Mr. Bon Soo graced the carnival since its early days. Sometimes he had white boots, other years black ones.
The original mascot costume was rather skinny and really didn’t match the logo designed by Sault Ste. Marie artist, Ken McDougall. Mr. Bon Soo needed to gain some weight if he was to match the actual logo. It took him about 6 years before he started to look like the snowman in the red suit that is known globally.
By the early 70’s the new Mr. Bon Soo started to have a bigger head and body, in fact Mr. Bon Soo was hard to miss when he entered any room or event. He would tower over the kids and even the grown-ups as he made his rounds to an endless amount of events staged during the winter carnival.
The suit itself required an assistant to help get dressed. Made from heavy fiberglass and wood with a corduroy red suit, Mr. Bon Soo often relied on helpers to guide him through the crowds. Sometimes Mr. Bon Soo couldn’t enter certain venues because his head was just too big.
Mr. Bon Soo continued to have subtle changes over the years, with lighter material and more colour added to his face (rosey cheeks were added in the late 70’s and early 80’s)
Perhaps the biggest change to Mr. Bon Soo came just a few years ago. The suit was made much lighter and so was the head. This allowed the “actor” inside to be much more nimble, and now Mr. Bon Soo could go anywhere. The head was no longer a hard fiberglass shell but a softer foam material. In all the new suit was 75 percent lighter than the other version.
Still an imposing figure though , Mr. Bon Soo stands about 6 feet 3 inches. The new look was revealed during the carnival’s 50th anniversary and was designed by Sugar’s Mascots in Toronto.