Mysterious Lions Gate Bridge Decorations to Return for 2015 Holidays

dsc00559Looks like Vancouver’s lions are going to get dressed up for the holidays, after all.

The famous lion statues at the southern end of the Lions Gate Bridge may again be wearing bows and wreaths this holiday season – but not before a little controversy and a lot of mystery.

From 1994-2010, the lions were decorated each year by an anonymous good samaritan. Then, in 2011, the tradition abruptly stopped and the lions were left naked for the holidays. Now, that mysterious decorator has finally come forward and broken the silence, as reported in the Vancouver Sun

His name is Mauro Azzano, a mystery writer from Richmond. In the early ’90s, he decided it would be “a cool thing” to dress up the lions – an idea borrowed from the New York Public Library and its own crouching felines. He asked the province’s Transportation Ministry for permission and was given the go-ahead, on one condition: he had to remain anonymous.

Photo by Mauro Azzano

Photo by Mauro Azzano

So for 17 years, Azzano packed his family into the car on the Saturday before Christmas. Then, after making a stop at the Dollar Store for bows and the Bay for wreaths, he’d park just off the Stanley Park Causeway and get down to business. Without any assistance, in all kinds of weather, Azzano would scramble up onto the lions, affixing the decorations around their necks.

But then copycats started to get in on the act. During big hockey games, the lions were dressed up in Canucks jerseys. Other times of the year, they sported sombreros and even plastic lobsters. Ultimately, in 2011, the Transportation Ministry determined that the decorations were a distraction and safety hazard and had to stop.

Photo credit: Jess Marissa | Instagram

Photo credit: Jess Marissa | Instagram

Azzano petitioned the ministry in 2012 and 2013 for permission to resume the holiday decorating, to no avail. Snubbed for so many years, he finally decided to go public this fall. Azzano revealed his identity and shared his story with local news outlets, in hopes of rekindling the lion-decorating tradition.

It seems his efforts have paid off. In the face of public outcry, Transportation Minister Todd Stone asked his staff to rethink the decorating ban and reach out to Azzano. According to the CBC, it now looks like he’ll be at it again this holiday season – tying bows and wreaths around the lions, with a little help this time from ministry staff.

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