Photo: Mysterious monolith appears in Saskatoon

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Photo: Mysterious monolith appears in Saskatoon
Photo: Mysterious monolith appears in Saskatoon

The monolith came under cover of night.

Around 9 p.m. on Monday, a team arrived with a gleaming pillar of brilliant steel, three metres tall — the same kind that has been appearing mysteriously around the world since November.

Thefirst was found in a desert in Utah, followed by Lethbridge, Colorado, Switzerland, Paraguay, the Bahamas — and most recently, a Motel Six in Saskatoon.

Manager Roberta Davenport spotted it around 7:15 a.m. on Tuesday as she arrived at work.

“It looks like a landscaping piece. A statue or a fountain, almost,” she said.

Before long, guests from a nearby Tim Hortons were taking selfies with it.

Some speculate the monoliths are an elaborate Internet prank; others say aliens are behind the phenomenon. Some think it’s a complicated reference to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.

They’ve inspired trips, photos and a litany of news coverage and think pieces from the likes of the New York Times.

Alas, Saskatoon’s monolith is not a mystery. It was financed by motel owner Melvyn Didyk, who watched — through the mechanical eye of a security camera — as a team of contractors erected the pillar. He decided not to tell his staff, preferring to make it a surprise.

Didyk, who lives in Maple Ridge, B.C., said the sculpture was in part a plan to attract business at a time when the hospitality sector is hurting. More than that, he said he wanted to bring a brief moment of silly wonder in the middle of a dark winter.

“If it just brings a moment of solace and introspection, then we’ve accomplished something,” Didyk said.

Building a monolith is no easy order. Didyk contracted Saskatoon Welding Services to build the frame, which includes a sheet and a half of steel and took three days to create. Then there were the contractors who created the foundation, and the landscapers who arranged for its placement. He said materials alone might have cost $3,000.

“In terms of the quality, I would put this at the top of the (monolith) pile,” Didyk said.

His friend Bob Holtsman said it’s exactly the kind of thing the motel owner does.

“He just had this crazy idea,” Holtsman said with a laugh.

Didyk said the not-so-guerrilla art installation is partially a business move but also a perfect distraction after months of the pandemic consuming peoples’ thoughts.

“We’re all dealing with elderly parents, children, university, anywhere. We’re lifting everyone up together. I felt bringing some levity to the community in a difficult time was the foundation of the monolith,” Didyk said.

He doesn’t know the future of the monolith, he said. There might be a marketing campaign. He might leave it there over the summer. He has a vision of the stainless steel reflecting the growing prairie grass. Or maybe it will simply go, as silently as it came.

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