ALBERTA

Margaret Hodgkinson: Meet Evansburg's New Town Grouch

08/22/2012 07:54 EDT | Updated 08/22/2012 08:38 EDT
AP
The character Oscar the Grouch, left, and Anderson Cooper appear onstage at the 39th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Saturday, June 23, 2012 in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

Fact of the matter is we all get a little grouchy from time to time.

But in the small Alberta town of Evansburg, residents actually battle it out each year to see who can take the title of Town Grouch.

Margaret Hodgkinson, 53, claimed the fame last week after she won the fundraising race that determines the dubious honour.

"I shake my fist at everybody that walks by me. I frown as hard as I possibly can, even the little kids start crying," Hodgkinson told the National Post.

Along with the title of Town Grouch, Evansburg's surliest resident receives a street sign that reads '10 Frowning Street' to place on their lawn and can claim their place on the "grouch bench" outside the Post Office on Main Street. They also attend local fairs and events while dressed in a disgruntled miner's costume - a tribute to the area's history.

The tradition began almost 40 years ago with the creation of the town sign.The welcome sign mentioned the town's 784 people, 29 dogs and 41 cats - but there was still some spare room.

"So I added '1 Grouch,'" sign artist and Town Grouch founder John Lauer told Edmonton Journal. "That caught a lot of attention."

Lauer told Global Edmonton that the competition began as a way to make the town's population statistics more impressive - a way to "destroy any hope of peace or tranquility that people might have otherwise had around them."

Now the Town Grouch carries the responsibility of being the grouchiest voice around so no one else has an excuse to complain.

"So they can really be a pain in the butt and they've got a license to get away with it," Lauer told Global.

People began to vote for the Town Grouch in 1979 and the tradition continues to this day. To become the Town Grouch candidates must raise money by pestering their neighbours, friends and family. The winner with the highest earnings, which benefit a local festival, will win the bragging rights and hold the title for a year.

And, as this year's Town Grouch, Hodgkinson doesn't plan to make things easy on anyone. She told the National Post that her main gripe with Evansburg is the slow pace of road construction.

But what does she plan to do about it?

"I’m going to protest. I’m going to make sure they don’t go on my road. I might even go take a couple of whacks with my axe and make a few more holes in the road that they’re digging so they’ll just have to keep on working on it."

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