The Sudbury icon's birthday was celebrated in style Tuesday, with a community party that included two Guinness World Record attempts, live music, children's activities and fireworks.
Volunteers did set a new world record for the largest coin mosaic — they used about 220,000 pennies, nickels, loonies and toonies to create a 73-square-foot mosaic of the Big Nickel.
However, they failed to break the record for the number of coins stacked in 30 seconds — the current record of 51 still stands.
Szilva and son Jim also signed copies of their book, “The Big Nickel: The Untold Story,” which outlines his struggles to create the Big Nickel back in 1964.
“It's a tremendous day,” said Szilva. “So many people are here. It's a wonderful occasion — a happy birthday. I hope it continues for another 50 years.”
Guy Labine, CEO of Science North
— which now owns the monument — said the Big Nickel has come to symbolize Sudbury.
He said when he talks to people from outside of the community, they usually tell him they've had their photo taken with the monument.
“It's hard to imagine the Sudbury landscape, in fact, without the Big Nickel,” Labine said.
Mayor Marianne Matichuk officially proclaimed July 22 Big Nickel Day on behalf of the City of Greater Sudbury.
The Big Nickel has “imprinted itself on the lives of all Sudburians and many Canadians,” she said.
“The Big Nickel is unquestionably the first great marketing tool the city ever had. It paved the way for everything that came after, including Science North and Dynamic Earth.
“So here we are today, 50 years later, and the Big Nickel is bigger and better than ever. This iconic monument means even more to Greater Sudbury than anyone could ever have dreamed.”
Don Teddy attended the event with wife Joan, and their sons Shane, 14, and Ryan, 11.
“When you think of Sudbury, you think of the Big Nickel or vice-versa,” said Don, adding that he's 50 years old — the same age as the monument. “I'll always be tied to it, eh?”
Kristen Hawdon, who attended the celebrations with her children Mikaela, two, and Rowan, 20 months, said she grew up in Sudbury, and has pictures of herself as a child with the Big Nickel.
“It's kind of cool to have pictures of me when I was little with the Big Nickel and my kids now,” she said, speaking to Northern Life as her kids blew giant bubbles in the monument's shadow.