Ready to yodel for a long time to come

The world’s largest free-standing cuckoo clock is getting a facelift. The Kimberley landmark, originally installed in 1972, has been in need of an upgrade for years. With recent support from the Trust, Happy Hans will be bringing smiles to the Platzl for years to come.

3 minute read

Kimberley upgrades a community landmark

Tucked amidst forests, mountains, fields of deer, outdoor fun and a sweet little community, you’ll unexpectedly find an uncommon attraction: the world’s largest free-standing cuckoo clock!

This summer, residents of Kimberley, along with many, many visitors, will enjoy a new-and-improved Happy Hans as he pops out of the downtown clock, beer stein in hand, and yodels. This project was supported by Columbia Basin Trust, which helps communities achieve their unique aspirations—and maintaining a yodelling clock is certainly unique!

The restoration of this quirky “cuckoo” clock is a step in preserving the city’s past. “It has become a landmark,” says Andrew Wilson, General Manager of the Kimberley Chamber of Commerce, which oversees the clock. “If you’ve got family or friends coming to town, you’re going to take them to the Platzl and you’re going to go show them the clock. People take personal pride in it.”

It’s also one of the few items that remains of Kimberley’s Bavarian past. Back in the early 1970s, the community decided it needed to start promoting itself as a tourist destination—and what better way to stand out than to implement a German Bavarian theme? The clock soon came along, built and installed in 1972 by two local businessmen, with the yodel supplied by local woodcarver Adi Unterberger. Even though the businessmen didn’t have a permit to add this feature to the downtown pedestrian Platzl, the clock has remained ever since.

The decades, though, have taken their toll. “Happy Hans was getting older,” Wilson says. “He needed a bit of a facelift.”

One of the issues was the lack of insulation, which meant that Happy Hans wouldn’t always pop out on the coldest days. This has now been remedied, alongside interior upgrades like a new electrical system and audio equipment. A better coin mechanism also ensures that Happy Hans shows up when requested—still yodelling with Unterberger’s voice.

The outside looks fresher, too. In addition to work on the siding and roof, the decorative parts have been refreshed, with Kimberley artist Sam Crawford putting her creative touches on Happy Hans himself, plus aspects like the clock face and decorative inlays on the doors.

Many local volunteers and organizations have been essential in getting this work done. So has the Trust’s support, which was “the cornerstone of what made this possible,” Wilson says.

Thanks to all this input, Happy Hans lives on to yodel another day. “People are excited to see it redone.”

As one person said during the community consultation for the project, “Who can imagine the Platzl without the cuckoo clock? It is such a unique attraction.” And now this fun feature is preserved well into the future.

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