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Rick Mercer live in Fernie

Comedian Rick Mercer tugs on last year’s Extreme Griz winner, John Gallant’s beard. Mercer was in town for the 40th anniversary of Fernie’s Griz Days winter festival, which included live shows, a parade, and numerous competitions. - Ezra Black
Comedian Rick Mercer tugs on last year’s Extreme Griz winner, John Gallant’s beard. Mercer was in town for the 40th anniversary of Fernie’s Griz Days winter festival, which included live shows, a parade, and numerous competitions.
— image credit: Ezra Black

He’s wrestled steers at the annual Canadian Finals Rodeo, thrown elbows with the women of the Montreal Roller Derby League, been attacked by police dogs and then on March 5, comedian Rick Mercer was very nearly taken-out by a wayward dummy.

The 47-year old star of the hit CBC television show The Rick Mercer Report joined thousands of residents for the event-packed 40th anniversary of Fernie’s Griz Days Winter Festival.

The mountain-themed event included a variety of contests such as pancake eating, axe throwing, leg wrestling, baby racing, lumberjack demonstrations, a parade, a concert by Yukon Blonde in Station Square, fireworks, a circus act and the Raging Elk Dummy Downhill.

Just before the parade, Mercer was seen on 2nd Avenue, conversing with Mayor Giuliano about Fernie’s customary annual festivities. He also spoke with the Extreme Griz winners, who were dressed to a tee in animal fur, jeans and plaid.

“Now both of you have won this competition before,” said Mercer in an interview with Extreme Griz spokesperson Top-O Hutton and competitor John Gallant.

“Two times, so now they get me to host it to give a fair chance to everyone else,” said Hutton.

“What do you have to have to win Griz?” asked Mercer.

“Well, I heard you have to be able to walk and drink beer and also throw an axe,” replied Gallant.

“Are you judged on your beard? Is appearance a factor?” asked Mercer.

“Well the beard is not a must but it’s definitely a plus,” replied Gallant.

On Sunday Mercer took part in a highlight of the festival called the Raging Elk Dummy Downhill, where imaginatively built “dummies” on skis were sent sailing off a gigantic jump at the base of Fernie Alpine Resort’s Timber Chair.

Mercer and his cameraman were standing at the base of the jump, when the comedian was very nearly struck by a flying ski that detached itself from a dummy, appropriately called the Wheel of Misfortune.

“It was a little close,” said Mercer. “I’m fine. I knew I would get out of the way.”

No worse for wear from his close encounter, Mercer waved to the crowd and posed for pictures with eager fans.

“Are you alright Rick?” asked one fan.

“I didn’t know about the weight,” he said. “I was like, ‘I’ve seen that one, it’s pretty flimsy [what’s the] worst-case scenario if it hits us?’ That was great though. No shrapnel at all. That was awesome.”

Pat Cannon and Chris Milburn from Grey Creek B.C., built the dummy that almost took out the Canadian television icon. At 96 pounds and built from plywood, gym weights and skis, Wheel of Misfortune was a formidable projectile.

It was named ‘Best Overall Dummy’ and the pair took first place in the competition for which Cannon and Milburn were awarded a bag of merchandise and a $20 gas coupon.

The two have won 18 of the last 23 Griz Days dummy downhill events, and they said their secret is using a winning combination of weight and aerodynamic design in their dummies, which often take on political themes.

Last year they lampooned Donald Trump with a dummy called Hair Force One.

Wheel of Misfortune featured images of Trump, Kim Jong-un and Vladimir Putin.

“Here we’ve got three leaders who are a little bit scary out there,” said Milburn. “And we were looking to make a statement.”

“This is the first time we’ve almost killed Rick Mercer,” added Cannon.

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