After months of knitting and crocheting in secret, a small army of volunteers gathered in Bancroft last Thursday (May 17), ready to “yarn bomb” the town with hundreds of hand-crafted turtles.
The yarn bombers, who belong to the Hospice North Hastings craft group “Knittervention”, were ready to make their mark. With the sun streaming in through the windows of the Vintage on Hastings thrift shop, and Hospice coordinator Heather Brough perched on the cash desk, volunteers received their instructions.
They grabbed bags of colourful turtles, knit panels, wire, zip ties, ladders, and signs and then they were off — up and down Hastings Street as the Town of Bancroft grew quiet for the night.
Bancroft’s Mayor, Paul Jenkins, dropped in for the ceremonial placement of the first turtle, and Sergeant Sandy Adams from the Bancroft OPP Detachment also joined volunteers to kick off the yarn bomb.
By the time the sun went down, hundreds of hand-knit and crocheted turtles had taken over Bancroft to welcome back tourists for the Victoria Day long weekend — the traditional weekend to open the cottage for the season — and to remind motorists to watch for turtles crossing local roads and highways.
From the moment the installation began, comments started showing up on social media and the response was overwhelmingly positive. There were posts of gratitude, jokes, and lots of sharing of the local story.
To encourage people to interact with the turtles, a scavenger hunt was made available at Vintage on Hastings and families started dropping in on Friday to track the turtles. Prizes were given out once the hunt was completed.
But then on Saturday morning, a group of stumped parents and kids returned to Vintage on Hastings: they could not find the final turtle in the scavenger hunt.
“We knew something was wrong because they were looking for the Royal Wedding Turtle,” Brough explains. “It was really an obvious one, with a Union Jack on the shell, and we had posted pictures of it on social media for the wedding earlier that morning. So we checked — and it was gone.”
An announcement was made on social media about “Ro’shell” (the name of the missing turtle) and the response was huge.
Almost immediately, the Bancroft Brew Pub offered a $100 gift certificate as a reward for the safe return of Ro’shell and the online sharing continued.
By Sunday morning, there was more turtle news.
While the Hospice team searched for Ro’shell, a ransom note showed up at Vintage on Hastings for another turtle that was being held by a group calling itself “Squirrels for a Safer Tomorrow”.
They demanded $50 in nuts and media coverage of their message to keep squirrels safe on the roads too.
Brough took it all in stride.
From a previous yarn bomb at the Village Playhouse, the Knittervention team still had a three-foot crocheted police officer. They brought him out of retirement to help investigate the turtle kidnapping.
“Officer Paddy is on the case,” Brough laughs.
The turtle yarn bomb will stay on display in Bancroft until Saturday, May 26th. Brough says she can’t wait to see what happens with this initiative in the days ahead.
With World Turtle Day on Wednesday, May 23rd, the project — created in partnership with Kelly Wallace and the Think Turtle Conservation Initiative — is certainly raising awareness for turtles on our roads.
However, it’s also raising awareness of Hospice North Hastings,
“We want everyone in our community to know that Hospice is about living,” Brough says. “Sometimes Hospice can seem scary, but we want people to know that we are here, providing care and comfort in the community, and that we’re all about making the best of every moment and having as much fun as possible.”
Vintage on Hastings, the social enterprise operated by Hospice North Hastings, will continue to operate as Turtle Headquarters during the 10-day display. This is where people can grab turtle information as well as details for a scavenger hunt challenge.
Local folks and visitors to Bancroft are encouraged to interact with the turtles, choose favourites and to interact on social media using the hash tags #turtlebomb, #bancroftyarnbomb, and #worldturtleday — all in the name of raising awareness for the turtles on our local roads.