Famed Alberta government donair sells for $16K

By Catherine Griwkowsky August 17, 2023

Service Alberta Minister Dale Nally poses with the donair costume that sold at auction for $16,025. (Twitter/Dale Nally)

Edmonton-based PrimeTime Donair was the successful bidder on the government’s donair costume at $16,025 — more than the US$11,500 the government originally shelled out for the costume in 2015.

The restaurant was part of a weeks-long bidding war for the costume, which Alberta Today uncovered in July among a pallet of expired face masks and old printers on the provincial government’s surplus auction website.

At the time, the Hollywood-quality costume was listed for just $150 but after going viral, it’s price soared.

Service Alberta Minister Dale Nally bid adieu to the famed garment this week, noting 1,711 bids from across the country were entered in the auction.

“I am so happy to see that a local Edmonton business won it and is planning to use the costume to promote their business and help charities. From the start to finish, this has been a great human interest story,” said Nally on Twitter.

Last month, Premier Danielle Smith rode the online hype by taking a stroll through the Taste of Edmonton Festival while holding hands with a volunteer clad in the donair costume. She was also eating a donair herself.

Much of the bidding action took place between a handful of donair shops, resurrecting a long-running rivalry between east coast donairs, which don’t have lettuce, and west coast donairs, which do.

PrimeTime Donair owner Adil Asim told TorStar he cast the winning bid because he didn’t want the lettuce-sporting costume to go to rival bidders in Halifax.

“It’s an Alberta donair, so we said, ‘For pride, we have to win this thing so we can save that lettuce.’ And that’s exactly what we did,” he told the news outlet.

Throughout the bidding period, Asim’s shop donated a portion of proceeds from the sale of its donairs — with lettuce — to MADD Canada, a nod to the donair costume’s original purpose as a warning against the dangers of impaired driving.

As first reported by Alberta Today, the suit was procured by the former PC government in 2015 for an ad campaign featuring a character dubbed “The Wise Donair.”

The Wise Donair character was supposed to warn hallucinating pot-smokers about the dangers of driving while high.

However, the campaign’s lack of seriousness and its confusion about cannabis effects led the newly elected NDP government to kibosh it later that year, according to former NDP transportation minister Brian Mason.

The costume — which was in dusty but otherwise in excellent condition — had languished in a government warehouse ever since.

Hollywood puppeteer Christine Papalexis manufactured the donair suit for the LA-based prosthetics and special effects company Alterian Inc. The company has also made iconic costumes like the Daft Punk helmets and the Chucky doll.

Asim picked up the suit from the government surplus auction warehouse on Wednesday but will have to find someone else to wear it for promotions and charitable appearances since the suit only fits wearers 5’6” or shorter.