Family of Winnipeg’s iconic ‘humbug’ sign creator glad to see tradition continue

The iconic "HUMBUG" sign on Route 90 in Winnipeg. Submitted @den_74

It’s been lighting up Route 90 every holiday season since the mid-1970s, and 2020 is no exception — Winnipeg’s famous HUMBUG sign is back.

While spotting the sign hanging on the balcony of a Queen Street apartment in the Polo Park area is a fun holiday tradition for many, it’s even more meaningful for the family of the man who designed it.

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Sid Farmer told 680 CJOB the sign was erected in 1974 by his father, Sidney (Senior), just as a way to do something different to recognize the holiday season.

“My dad always wanted something different… there were so many ‘ho ho ho’ signs out there, ‘Merry Christmas,’ ‘Happy Holidays,’ and he just wanted something different,” he said.

“He was the exact opposite of humbug. He just loved Christmas.”

Farmer said his parents would dutifully set up the sign each year — first on a balcony in the middle apartment block of the complex, then five years later when they moved to the north block — usually in late November.

“It was kind of a family tradition,” he said.

When his father moved to a nursing home in 2002, Farmer thought that would be the end of the Humbug tradition. His own house wasn’t in a publicly-visible location — at least not as public as Route 90 — so it didn’t make sense to take the iconic sign with him.

“I was the one who had to empty his suite. In the process of doing so, the caretaker came down to help me and asked if he could have the sign.”

Although Farmer said he doesn’t know if the same caretaker is still displaying the sign, someone in the building continues to do so year after year — something that would’ve made his dad — who passed away in 2011 — very happy.

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Read more: Winnipeg Christmas Lights Map for 2020

Farmer’s daughter, Kym Kaufmann, said she enjoys seeing her family’s tradition carry on as well, but sometimes needs to give a bit of a disclaimer when friends ask about the sign.

“I do feel the need to explain to people why he hung the sign and that he actually was a lover of Christmas,” she said.

“I don’t want people to think we aren’t a loving and caring family, and we really enjoy the Christmas traditions.”

While the sign continues to amuse and delight Winnipeggers, Farmer said he has no intention of starting his own, similar tradition — although he does enjoy decorating for the holidays.

“I have almost 2,000 lights in my backyard, so I’ve done my own thing,” he said.

“That humbug thing was on Route 90, it was my dad’s… and millions of people see it going up and down Route 90 every day and they can celebrate Christmas and have something to look forward to.”

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