By Bonny Burrows and Rebecca Skilton
An $80,000 bronze and steel sculpture of infamous local identity Mr Yakkerboo is standing tall in Pakenham’s Main Street.
The artistic tribute of the town’s mythical bunyip-style swamp character is now complete, with its official unveiling scheduled for 20 April.
Mr Yakkerboo is a symbolic character of Pakenham, born and bred in the imaginations of local residents in 1976.
The beloved character is celebrated annually at the Yakkerboo Festival Parade with a street parade and carnival rides, to be held this year on 22 and 23 April.
This is the first time a work commemorating Mr Yakkerboo has been commissioned by council.
It was created by Newcastle artist Julie Squires – with help from Cardinia Shire school children – and features Mr Yakkerboo with his new canine mate Blue.
The former Melburnian had never heard of Yakkerboo before responding to a call for public submissions but quickly educated herself.
“I’d spent a day researching the Yakkerboo … and I just thought trying to teach people about the history of the area is really important,” Ms Squires said.
Taking inspiration from the original Mr Yakkerboo, which was designed by primary school students, Ms Squires turned to local schools for assistance.
More than 200 children contributed to the project, which took six months to complete.
“There were five primary schools and one high school involved … and it’s cast in bronze now, so it will be around forever,” Ms Squires said.
“Working with the kids was amazing, and they’re all coming to the launch next week so I’m really looking forward to that – they’ll be trying to find which scale is theirs.”
The addition of Blue the blue heeler came from a need for Yakkerboo – with no arms – to engage with its surrounds.
“I thought ‘well, he just can’t stand there not saying anything or having any gesture’, and another part of the history of the area was the cattle and farming industry, so I thought ‘why not put in a blue heeler’ which seemed to be the natural choice,” Ms Squires said.
“So the statue’s called Mr Yakkerboo meets Blue.”
Ms Squires said she was glad to see the feature piece had fast become a talking point for locals.
“It’s interesting the people who recognise it and those who don’t. One little kid, his response was just to start clapping and go, ‘Yakkerboo, Yakkerboo,’ and I’m like, ‘yeah, that’s what I want’,” she said.
She also praised the Pakenham community for embracing the beloved character of 40 years.
“I just thought that a place like Pakenham had invented this character 40 years ago, and continued to have a festival running for 40 years is amazing,” Ms Squires said. “Most towns don’t have that.”
The Yakkerboo festival will begin on Saturday 22 April with fireworks at Bourke Park at 9pm.
The unique vehicle cavalcade, float parade, $5 unlimited rides; market and raffle will be among the celebrations featured on Sunday 23 April. Visit www.facebook.com/yakkerboofestival