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Icon Gone takes a bow

After a successful six-year run the annual debate is over — or is it?

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Over the last six years Whistler locals have mined the community's history, plucked its memorable figures, landmarks and objects and argued on their behalf as part of the annual Icon Gone event put on by the Whistler Museum.

But in a town with a history that spans only a few decades, genuine, historical icons are finite. That's why the debate's 2013 installment was its last, says Jeff Slack, programs and marketing manager at the museum.

"Even last year when I was putting it on I got the sense that people were thinking most of the good ones were gone," Slack says. "I was totally happy with the way the event turned out this year, but there was a concern the quality of the event would go down."

Case in point: this year's winner, defending champ Angie Nolan, took first place with her argument for Toad Hall, the long defunct, infamous ski bum squat, which had already popped up in a debate (via a poster it produced, not the building itself) in past years.

In her final defense Nolan quoted Jack Kerouac's famous line from On the Road to describe Toad Hall's roving guests: "The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars."

Nolan concluded: "As long as we remember to break some rules... Toad Hall will never be gone."

In the end, she beat out Mandy Rousseau's case for the mystical naked skier and Pique's own G.D. Maxwell, who was brought back in a "wildcard round" for his argument for dogs, along with five others who were beat out in earlier rounds.

"I've been here a long time. I've seen a lot of changes. Even though it seems to have fizzled out, the reason I think people still come here is the initial (experience) the first ski bums had," Nolan says, explaining her choice of Toad Hall.

The crowd of around 125 people at Merlin's that gathered to watch the March 6 event was diverse, she points out, ranging from people who had a direct connection to the debate's subjects to younger transplants. "It was nice to see the more mature Whistlerites there," Nolan says. "Some came up to me and they looked like a younger version of my grandmother. I got lots of compliments and it was great, but I was like, 'You should've been up there.'"

That's the other reason the event is going the way of Dusty the Horse (who was also featured in an early round of the debate this year): not enough people step up to the stage, Slack says. "If people really, really want it to come back sooner rather than later, get in touch with us and say you want to perform," he says. "Unless I'm assured we'll get a solid lineup, we'd rather end on a high note than risk forcing one too many years."

Nolan might have two big champion belts (literally) to her name, but she's still sad to see the event go. "I get it because a lot of things have been argued, but I think there's still so many things to argue," she says. "I think it's such a great event. I don't think there's anything wrong with celebrating our history and in such a great way too. Some people aren't interested in history, but in that environment it makes it so much fun and so Whistler."

To that end, Slack feels like the event accomplished its goal of "bringing the past to life, making it entertaining and compelling without losing that (historical information)," he says. "The turnout really speaks to that. The audience wasn't passive. People were yelling out their opinions, adding content. People felt strongly about the topics and had personal connections to them and felt like they should add to it. Everyone had historical content in their presentation and made arguments in an entertaining manner."

So, is this really it? "A lot of people are asking us to do it again," he says. "At this moment there are no plans."

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