Killing the golden smeet

It’s being reported that the city of Montreal, though its tourism board, has paid the advertising company Sid Lee $6 million to oversee a multimedia tourist attraction campaign featuring a menagerie of fanciful hybrid creatures such as the “deerus” (half deer, half walrus) and the “squirrog” (half squirrel, half frog). The idea, we’re told, is to use these neat and quirky creatures to convey the idea that Montreal is itself a different kind of creature – a place wherein some 106 radically different annual festivals can coexist harmoniously.

Here in Ypsi we had something similar… at least for a while. It didn’t cost $6 million, though. A local fellow began spreading a story that a furry, flying species of frog called the smeet made its home in the mud along the banks of the Huron River in Ypsilanti. And the playful ruse began to take root, showing up in local theater and even in popular song. Instead of rallying around the idea, however, our city elders decided to kill it. They ripped out the very professional looking plaque about the smeet that had been erected on Ypsilanti’s historic tridge, and the signage that later appeared in Frog Island Park… I can certainly understand why the folks in control might not want to set a precedent where just anyone could go into our beloved public park and put up a plaque about a fanciful animal that looked as though it were sanctioned by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, but it still pisses me off that no one in power saw the potential inherent in this small, furry, flying frog. And this story about Montreal paying $6 million to do something similar just illustrates to me how short-sighted we were. The smeet frog could have been embraced, but we had to kill it instead. I don’t want to go too far with the analogy, but I think, to some extent, the fate of the smeet kind of illustrates our City’s love/hate relationship with the arts. I’ll leave that discussion for another time, though.

[Thanks to Metafilter for making me aware of this campaign being launched in Montreal.]

update: I wanted to apologize for linking to that Monkey Power Trio song above. It’s not one of their best efforts. If you want to hear something better, that was recorded during that same session, I’d suggest Planet of the Apes is Real. Also, I haven’t mentioned it here yet, but the Monkey Power Trio’s 2009 recording is now available for purchase.

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  1. Edward
    Posted August 19, 2011 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    Not to fan the flames on this, but I think what the City Council did relative to the Ypsitucky Jamboree falls under this same umbrella. Everyone agrees that we need smart, creative, engaged people here in Ypsi if we’re ever going to turn things around, but, at the same time, the people in charge just can’t seem to let go.

    Cue the still frothing Andy Clock.

  2. Mr. X
    Posted August 19, 2011 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    I imagine that a vast majority of that $6 million went toward media buys, but the ad company probably still got a hell of a lot of money for coming up with those creatures. I wish I could fall into a job like that. I don’t think there’s a career to be had in whimsey, though. At least not in Michigan.

  3. Andrew Jason Clock
    Posted August 19, 2011 at 5:04 pm | Permalink


    I’ve given up on frothing. The actions of our council in regards to our parks, relations with Washtenaw Parks & Recreation, Water Street, Festivals, businesses, the direction of the DDA, creative promotion and re-vitalization efforts and specifically downtown speak for themselves. Our current crop seems interested in status quo, grudges, and the good ‘ol boy system. I think anybody who’s paying attention is starting to see that.

    With taxes as high as ours our, and services so limited, shouldn’t we be working real hard on being a cordial and inviting to everyone who wants to help or contribute as we possibly can? Should we really be putting up roadblocks, or worse, sabotaging the efforts of others for no good reason?

    I’m just not interested in fighting all the little battles anymore. I’d rather just try to right the ship once and get down to business.

  4. Posted August 19, 2011 at 8:48 pm | Permalink

    Like I said, I get it that, generally speaking, you don’t want people putting their own signs up on public property. I’m just saying that, if it were me that was in charge, I would have figured out a way to move the sign or something, instead of destroying it. And, all things being equal, I’d try, as much as possible, to come down on the side of the young people with energy who want to do things, as opposed to those defending the status quo. Ypsi, sadly, isn’t in a position where it can afford to turn away new people with energy and ideas. I understand that it’s a gamble, but it’s one that I think we have to be willing to take.

  5. Posted August 21, 2011 at 10:09 pm | Permalink

    I just learned that the people of Montreal could have saved themselves a bundle, by borrowing a deck of cards from my friend Doug.

  6. Alice Tingy
    Posted August 22, 2011 at 2:59 am | Permalink

    We should give an annual award called the Golden Smeet for the city leader who does the most to quash the input of the creative class.

2 Trackbacks

  1. […] to the attention of the powers-that-be. (Does anyone remember the smeet sign that once stood near the tridge?) But, I figured that, in this instance, it might actually help to have people know about it. […]

  2. […] Hopefully, given that the sign is dedicated to a recently passed local hero, and signed by a number of Ypsi’s most prominent individuals, this time it won’t be removed… and Ypsi will begin to reap the rewards of the smeet. […]

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