That a wax-tube of processed meat can make headlines in Newfoundland and Labrador for two weeks in a row says a lot about how serious people in this province are about their culinary staples.
A week after false rumours circulated that Maple Leaf Foods was planning to discontinue its Big Stick bologna, the product is back in the news this week for inspiring a Christmas tree ornament that is quickly becoming one of the most sought after holiday decorations in the city.
“Twenty minutes after we opened the door we had to turn people away. We had sold out just to the people who were lined up since the morning started,” says Baddy Vinyl’s Jerry Burt, who shares a space with Kyle Callahan Photography inside Posie Row & Co. in downtown St. John’s.
Together they are the exclusive retailer for the Big Stick ornaments, a creation of Gary Murrin and Hamilton Cornish from FoamWerx Cosplay.
The ornaments, retailing for $12, are nothing more than a regular balloon stretched over a small cylindrical piece of wood, painted to resemble a Big Stick — complete with the smiling face — and clear coated.
Murrin was originally contracted to make a small batch of similarly shaped ornaments inspired by a third-season episode of the wildly popular animated science-fiction series “Rick & Morty.” (Pickle Rick ornaments, for those interested, are still available at the fourth-floor shop on Duckworth Street.)
As Burt tells it, Murrin was trying to come up with a Newfoundland-themed ornament and was inspired to make a miniature version after seeing the Big Stick mascot in the recent downtown St. John’s Santa Claus parade.
“He made me 10 bologna big stick ornaments, which sold out throughout the day, but as people took pictures and started sharing them on social media, it just went crazy,” says Burt.
“We’ve been calling it ‘The Bologna Bonanza’ or ‘Chase the Taste.’”
Murrin and Cornish produced 50 more, which were sold on Wednesday morning, and Burt says the craftsmen are hard at work making another 100 that will go on sale Saturday at 10 a.m.
After that, you’re Stick out of luck.
Unlike the actual Big Stick, which Maple Leafs Foods confirmed isn’t being discontinued, Burt expects the next batch will be the last for the foreseeable future.
In the spirit of the season, however, Burt and Callahan have set two ornaments aside for a special draw in aid of the School Lunch Program. For every $2 someone donates, they’ll receive a ticket giving them a chance to win both ornaments and one of the custom Maple Leaf bologna bowties created by Midnight Tailors. The draw is set for Sunday evening.
The duo says they haven’t received any communiqué from Maple Leaf Foods looking for its cut, but suggest if they do, “We’ll just give them the money.”
“We’re just two local boys trying to feed a family, pay a mortgage. We’re not selling 15,000 Maple Leaf bologna Big Sticks online. There’ll be literally maybe 160 of these in existence by the time Christmas comes, that’s it,” says Burt.
Maple Leaf Foods director of public relations Annemarie Dijkhuis couldn’t comment on any questions surrounding copyright, but did say the ornaments have created some buzz around the office.
“I think it speaks so much to Newfoundlanders’ love of Big Stick bologna and we think it’s just fabulous,” says Dijkhuis. “We love the excitement and adoration of this product down in Newfoundland and we see the reaction that people have to the Big Stick bologna mascot in the Christmas parade.
“If you have one you want to send us, I know we’d love to put it on our tree here in the office.”