Forget the snow, the date on the calendar, or the return of Santa to local malls — for many Winnipeggers, there’s one true sign that the holiday season has begun, and it’s spelled H-U-M-B-U-G.
For the past half-century, an illuminated sign that would make Ebenezer Scrooge proud has been prominently displayed from an apartment balcony on Route 90. This year, however, the holiday tradition is getting a new lease on life thanks to a local brewery.
Sid Farmer, whose parents erected the initial sign in the early ’70s, told 680 CJOB’s The Start that Christmas 2023 was looking like it might have a little less holiday sneer, as the building that has housed the HUMBUG sign is wrapped up and undergoing renovations.
Farmer’s father, Sidney Sr., moved in 2002 and died in 2011, but the building’s caretaker took over the sign and it has been dutifully placed on a balcony ever since. Although Farmer’s family hasn’t been directly involved with the tradition in two decades, he said he continues to hear from the public whenever there are questions about it — and with the current construction on the building, he was inundated with messages.
“I had several people contact me, through Facebook and friends, saying, ‘What’s happening to the sign, what’s going on?'” he said.
“And then yesterday or the day before, Tim from One Great City (brewery) got hold of me and he gave me the news about them building a new sign.”
The Ness Avenue brewery, which can be seen from the sign’s original balcony location, noticed the construction happening across Route 90 and decided to step in to keep the tradition alive.
“We can see the sign from our building. It’s something that has sort of glowed down on us since the beginning,” One Great City’s Tim Hudek told The Start.
“It’s something we know means a lot to a lot of people. A few years ago we did a ‘humbug’ beer to honour it, and that’s when I met Sid and heard the whole story.”
Hudek said the company’s brewer took the initiative to build a new HUMBUG sign, which was wired with lights this weekend.
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“He’s installing it on the roof of our building today, at 1596 Ness, so not quite as high and not exactly the same location, but hopefully it’s at least honouring and continuing the tradition so people can see it throughout the holiday season.
“We wanted to make sure we were going to hit that (50-year) milestone and keep it alive for people.”
Farmer said his dad would be “thrilled beyond belief” by the number of people who love the sign and who are getting involved in maintaining the tradition.
“He’d be honoured…. He was the furthest thing from the Grinch. He loved Christmas, he loved the presents, his grandkids, his kids, all the food that went with it, his family and friends, he was the furthest thing from humbug…. He just wanted something different.”