Reading about a quirky radio host is the most Edmonton thing you can do
Lauren Hunter really, really loves Edmonton. You don’t dress up as the Walterdale Bridge for Halloween unless you’re a superfan of the city.
That’s just one of many high profile shenanigans Hunter (Radio and Television - Radio ’13), a Sonic 102.9 radio personality, has been up to over the last couple of years that have captured the attention of her listeners and fellow Edmontonians. Most recently, she’s the brains behind an online petition to name a small building in a proposed downtown park the “Nathan Fillion Civilian Pavilion.”
The tongue-in-cheek campaign is in honour of Fillion, who was born and raised in Edmonton before hitting it big in Hollywood with shows such as Firefly, Castle and The Rookie. For Hunter, who was also born and raised in the City of Champions, the petition has been a great way to shine a light on the city and share some laughs, too. More than 9,800 have signed up in support and news of the campaign has made waves internationally.
“I love telling Edmonton stories and promoting people from our city.”
“I love telling Edmonton stories and promoting people from our city who have done such cool things,” Hunter says. That’s a big reason why she started the Fillion petition. “Sometimes, I feel like Edmonton is a little forgotten niche.”
Tapping into news with humour
Hunter was also responsible for the campaign to have Tommy Chong, another Edmonton-born actor, become the voice of Edmonton’s LRT. It was a quirky – and very Edmonton – response to comedian and Vancouver-born Seth Rogen recording public service announcements for that city’s transit system.
Both petitions are examples of how the announcer pays attention to top stories and topics of conversations dominating the news and adding her own brand of humour when discussing them on-air. When listeners respond, usually via text message, she takes to social media and shares her quirky ideas with a larger audience.
Many of those ideas, like dressing up in an intricate, hand-made Walterdale Bridge to mark its opening after years of delays, often go viral, but that’s not her aim.
“I love to try to think of ideas that will make people smile. It's really the goal,” she says. “Anything that happens above and beyond that is amazing.”
Hunter says she chose the name of her latest public campaign because “Nathan Fillion Civilian Pavilion” is just fun to say. She didn’t have a goal in mind for the number of signatures, but says she’s been blown away by the overwhelming response. Now, she leaves things in the hands of the City of Edmonton.
“I talked with the naming committee and I've talked to people from the Edmonton downtown community league,” she says. “They all like the name. They're just not sure if a pavilion will get built.”
The central park, which will transform several surface parking lots from Jasper Avenue to 102nd Avenue and between 106th and 108th streets, is still in the planning phase.
Silent during all the public discussion is Fillion himself. Hunter reached out to his publicist, who declined to comment since the project is still in development.
Introducing Gen. Connor McDavid
In September 2017, Hunter highlighted another famous Edmontonian when she spent 70 hours painting a portrait of Edmonton Oilers star forward Connor McDavid in a vintage military outfit. The idea was inspired by the work of U.K. artist Steve Payne, who Photoshops celebrity faces on the portraits of historic military leaders.
What started as a fun project in a summer art class gained a lot of attention across social media when she shared a photo, and was playfully dubbed the “Connor McPortrait.” The radio station made a few hundred replica prints and sold them for charity donations. They raised about $27,000 for Youth Empowerment Support Services in Edmonton.
“That was definitely one of my proudest moments,” says Hunter, “being able to give back to the community like that, and having Edmontonians so excited to be part of the cause.”
“I got to meet Connor McDavid, share my art and it supported an amazing cause … all my loves at once.” Although McDavid wasn’t quite sure what to think of the piece when questioned by a group of reporters, Hunter says he and the Oilers were great sports about the campaign.
She isn’t sure what her next antic will be, but she’ll find another way to continue being an unconventional, unintentional ambassador for Edmonton.
“It’s cool how this works,” she says. “It's really positive – more than I could've ever imagined.”