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Sault pumpkin paddler featured on 'This Hour Has 22 Minutes'

‘Any publicity is good publicity’: Pumpkin paddler Brent Rouble chuckled when last week’s edition of ‘This Hour Has 22 Minutes’ poked fun at the efforts people make to leave Sault Ste. Marie
Despite missing the Guinness World Record, enthusiastic gardener Brent Rouble paddled 23 kilometres through unfavourable conditions along St. Marys River and Lake Huron in his giant pumpkin on Oct. 15, 2023.

SAULT STE. MARIE — Being referenced on an iconic Canadian satirical show wasn’t exactly on Brent Rouble’s 2023 bingo card when he was aiming to break the Guinness World Record for longest distance travelled in a pumpkin boat.

But that’s exactly what happened last week when the CBC’s long-running show “This Hour Has 22 Minutes” saw an opportunity to mention Rouble's accomplishment while also teasing the Sault.

"A man from Sault Ste. Marie has paddled a giant pumpkin 23 kilometres down a river,” said cast member Mark Critch. “It's an inspiring story of the lengths people will go to, to escape from Sault Ste. Marie."

The clip made a significant impression on social media, particularly through TikTok where the joke has garnered more than 360,000 views.

As a fan of the hit show for nearly 30 years, Rouble couldn’t believe it.

“It was awesome,” he said. “I grew up watching ‘This Hour Has 22 Minutes’ with Rick Mercer. I remember sitting with my parents watching it and it was hilarious, even as a kid. That’s how I would get my news.”

While the pumpkin paddler found the joke to be incredibly funny, bantering about the efforts people make to leave the Sault sparked dozens of comments from viewers who genuinely agreed with the sentiment.  

“Sault Ste. Marie is Ontario’s armpit,” one woman wrote.

“The area is beautiful, but the city is not,” another man commented.

Rouble told SooToday that “any publicity is good publicity,” but reactions like those ones can admittedly be tough to read for someone who believes in his hometown.

“It was a hilarious clip, but when I saw all the comments, it kind of got real,” he said. “Some of the comments got kind of dark and bad for the Sault. You can’t please everyone, but I want to give the haters a bit less ammunition.”

It’s been a busy year for Rouble as the local geologist is eyeing next year’s vacant chief administrative officer position with the City of Sault Ste. Marie.

From environmental consulting and entrepreneurial endeavours to business advisory and leadership work, the adventurous Saultite believes his range of experience and tenacious spirit would make for a positive fit at city hall.

“The Sault’s great, but there’s a lot of work we can do to make it better,” he said. “Those comments on that video were just another reason I’m glad I applied for the CAO job.”

As reported by SooToday’s David Helwig last month, city councillors want a risk-taking, social media-savvy CAO who can contribute to solving hardline issues like homelessness, affordable housing, and downtown development.

Up to the challenge, 35-year-old Rouble believes he fits those qualities and then some.

“I’ll do whatever I have to do to help this town, and if it’s in a CAO job – even better,” he said. “People can’t afford to live or eat, people are turning to drugs, and we’ve seen so many violent events. It’s so sad to see, and there are things I want to do to help.”

“I know it’s human nature to keep thinking it’s getting worse and worse, but I honestly think it is getting worse,” he added. “But we have some great, passionate people working for the city, and we need to encourage that instead of trying to extinguish that flame. In Sault Ste. Marie, we're not deterred by hard work or taking chances. It's part of our identity.”

Malcolm White, the city’s current CAO, will retire on Jan. 31, 2024. Applications for the position close on Nov. 8.


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Alex Flood

About the Author: Alex Flood

Alex is a recent graduate from the College of Sports Media where he discovered his passion for reporting and broadcasting
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