Horns are honking even before Freddie Wilson has reached his post above the sign bearing his name on a Hantsport-area overpass.
The symphony of honks from incoming traffic is accentuated with cheers and smiles that zoom by as commuters wave to the iconic Annapolis Valley figure from inside the cars below.
“It makes them happy, and I think that’s pretty good,” he says.
Freddie started waving from the Highway 101 overpass that shares his name after returning home from school at age 18 or so.
He says it started as “something to do” during his afternoons and quickly became a regular activity he was eager to keep up.
Decades later, at 65, the overpass greeter minds the cold weather more than he used to but says he expects to be out in full force again this spring and summer.
“This feels like my home. It’s a nice view, nice everything up here. You can see almost everything,” he says.
CAPTIVATING CANADIANS ACROSS COUNTRY
Freddie now lives with his younger brother, Peter Wilson, who says it’s no secret that Freddie loves the attention his waves get.
It’s not unusual for drivers to make special stops to greet him in person, or snap a photo with Freddie.
“This feels like my home. It’s a nice view, nice everything up here.” – Freddie Wilson
“Sometimes we liken it to sasquatch sightings, because people leave the highway and chase after him until they find him,” laughs Peter. “He really loves it.”
He pulls out a grocery bag full of mailed letters, newspaper clippings, photos and books about Freddie that show just how far the story has travelled.
Annapolis Valley resident Phyllis Jardine penned the short story ‘The Man on the Bridge’ about her first encounter with Freddie Wilson for Chicken Soup for the Soul: O Canada.
“It’s hard to believe it’s gone all the way across the country,” says Peter.
Some visitors of the overpass greeter come bearing gifts.
The Vancouver Canucks hockey jersey Freddie wore as he joyfully waved from his overpass April 18 was mailed to him from a woman in British Columbia.
The woman learned of Freddie from her cousin in Nova Scotia and saw him for herself during a visit. She included a note with the jersey, writing that she felt pure happiness as she exchanged waves with Wilson while driving beneath the bridge.
“I hope you enjoy it and keep on waving!” she wrote.
TOO MANY JERSEYS TO COUNT
He can often be spotted wearing hockey jerseys, and it’s likely his collection could easily rival that of the average sports fan.
“I have a whole whack. I don’t even know how many,” says Freddie.
But it works for him since he’s never had a favourite team. He cheers for them all and watches games nearly every day.
While there may be no rhyme or reason to the jerseys Freddie wears during the NHL’s regular season, Peter says everything changes in April as playoffs begin.
“Whoever wins, that’s what he wears. He’s got at least one jersey of every team,” he says.
It’s a short walk to the bridge from their home down the road, and one Freddie conquers at a brisk pace.
It’s a walk he no longer makes every day, but one he won’t soon abandon.
Because he knows what it means to all of those driving by, hoping to catch a glimpse of a waving Freddie Wilson.
Because at the end of the day, it’s all for them.
“It’s to make people happy, all the time,” says Freddie.
“All the time.”