There might have been some sore necks along 25th Avenue in Vernon Wednesday afternoon.
Motorists either did a double-take or strained to see the six-foot tall Transformer known as Megatron plundering slowly on the grass and sidewalk across from the Vernon Water Reclamation Centre property.
The Megatron suit is the creation of Darrin McNiven, 52, owner, operator and actor who slips into the giant outfit made mostly of sheet plastic and electronics, and rents himself out to birthday parties or other occasions.
“I was the Kelowna Expo Fan Fest greeter in this costume,” said McNiven, 52, five-foot-11, who takes about 10 minutes to don the costume.
“Most of the stuff I make is from sheet plastic, it’s plastic fabrication,” he said. “I make six-foot tall robots and six-foot spaceships.”
And where he makes his art is even more remarkable.
It’s an old storage bin located on the property of Vernon’s Elephant Storage Centre, where he also does a little security for the company. On this day, his thermometer in the shop reads 30 degrees C, and outside, it’s at least 20 degrees. He lives right beside the shop in his “UFO Response Unit,” which is a former Saturn automobile.
Yes, McNiven is homeless.
“Things went to s—t for me about three or four years ago, when my mom died,” he said. “But I love what I do. I do it 24-7.”
Much to the delight of young Kane Merlo, nine, who was able to not only get his picture taken with McNiven as Megatron, but Merlo helped him with the costume.
“I plugged in the cord that gave him his (Transformer) voice,” said Merlo. “His costume is so awesome.”
The front of his Megatron costume has a donation box. One lady was so smitten by his work and wanted pictures of the costume, but when she saw the box, she went back to her vehicle and came back with a deposit, much to McNiven’s appreciation.
McNiven can be reached for information about his company at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Editor’s note: This story has been updated from the original version to include Mr. McNiven’s contact info.)