© Images Courtesy of Town of Princeton
The Bronze Sculpture Capital of Canada has become a golden attraction.
Three years ago, the Princeton city council approved the production of more than a dozen bronze sculptures as part of its revitalization plan. Now, they are proving to be quite the attraction for the community that used to be a quick stop on the trip to Vancouver. Today it is a popular day trip for those seeking something different.
“Our visitor numbers are going up because people are coming here just to do the sculpture walk,” Princeton economic development and tourism director Gary Schatz said. “It’s our number one reason why people come into the visitor centre.”
By the end of July, the number of tourists to Princeton represented a 30 per cent increase over any other year. It has already had more out-of-town visitors than it had in the last two pandemic-affected years combined.
There are now 16 sculptures throughout the downtown area, and more are on the way, including a mountain goat, a golden eagle and five bear cubs. The art pieces reflect the history, wilderness and wildlife that make Princeton unique. Schatz said the goal is to add a sculpture every year.
“Every animal we have is in this region of British Columbia,” he said, “so we’ve still got plenty of animals to add.”
Visitors to Princeton can do a walking tour of the bronze sculpture loop, which is about a kilometre long and flat. That makes it an accessible attraction for everyone.
“It’s a unique thing,” Schatz said. “We have a couple outside of our office here, and every day I see people with our brochure….posing with a statue, taking a picture.”
And which sculptures are everyone’s favourite? Well, it depends on whom you ask.
“I hear lots of different ones,” Schatz said. “Our German tourists probably like the bears the best. The bears are big in Germany. A lot of people like the moose in front of the visitor centre. Same with the elk at one of our other gateways. When you ask people, you get a whole mix of opinions.”
There are plans to make the sculpture tour even more interactive and appealing to all ages. Postcards featuring pictures of the sculptures are in the planning stages, creating sculpture-related activities for kids is in the works, and Schatz wants technology to be part of the fun as well.
“We’re going to hopefully make these animals come to life, whether that’s through an app or something else,” he said. “I think it’d be neat if you could hold your phone up and all of a sudden the animal turns and growls or does something neat.”
Visit the Town of Princeton website, princeton.ca, to learn more about the sculptures and everything else the community has to offer.
The Town of Princeton (population 2,700) is the largest town in the Similkameen. You’ll find it at the confluence of the Tulameen and Similkameen Rivers and at the junction of BC Highways 3 and 5A. It’s a 90-minute drive from the Okanagan Valley and a three-hour drive from the Lower Mainland via Hwy 3-Crowsnest Hwy. You can also fly charter or private planes into the Princeton Airport.