By Jonathan Riley
THE DIGBY COURIER
The pole people popping up on Hwy. 1 started out as a way to make people smile.
Jack Bevaart of Brighton came up with the idea one day while walking on the beach across from his home. He saw several poles on the shore and figured he could “re-purpose” them.
He painted two poles to look like a boy and a girl and installed them on either side of his main driveway.
“It was just something to make the community smile,” says Bevaart. “I decorated them and put raincoats on them when it rains; it’s just something fun.”
Now there are 18 bright and colourful pole people on either side of the highway from Brighton to Gilbert’s Cove in Digby County.
Both of Bevaart’s driveways have pole people and there are three googley-eyed monsters in the swamp across the street.
Bevaart runs an antique and collectible shop in Brighton and seven other businesses have joined him in marking their driveways with the folk art-like painted poles.
Last year, Tom Paton-Haynes, who sells Japanese art in Barton, created a small brochure of businesses on that stretch of highway along St. Mary’s Bay.
Bevaart convinced the businesses featured in that folder to go one step farther and form the St. Mary’s Bay Community Association. Soon, they were all agreeing to put in pole people and they organized a treasure hunt of sorts for customers, visitors and locals alike.
By collecting punches from four of the vendors and making at least one $25 purchase along the way, visitors can earn a “Spirit of Nova Scotia” gift bag. The gift bags include small odds and end from each of the businesses in the program.
Tracy Jordan runs a shop in Gilbert’s Cove. She asked to help Bevaart with the painting and now, he says, hers are much prettier than his.
She even sells painted poles or small sticks if you prefer.
“Now we’re all good friends and working together,” says Bevaart. “The others are seeing more traffic and we’re giving the people who come here a fun experience and we’re giving back, and putting smiles on people’s faces.”
Bevaart says he hears from people every day, either in person or on Facebook, who tell him how the pole people have made them smile.
“Just the other day, a gentleman wrote to tell me he drives this way all the time to visit his terminally ill wife in Yarmouth, and he told me these pole people have helped him, they up lift him.”
Bevaart says he’d like to keep knocking on doors in the community until there are 30 or 40 pole people along Hwy. 1.
“I want the area to be known for the pole people.”