Wawa, Ont. celebrates Canada Day by unveiling new goose
New goose cost $300,000, weighs 2,700 kg and like the old one, is 8.5 metres high.
The new Wawa goose will be unveiled during a Canada Day ceremony, but the town's new symbol actually arrived on the back of a truck early one morning a few days earlier.
Lorraine Belanger, who has lived in the northern Ontario town for some 40 years, was one of the first locals to see "our new buddy."
"Oh this is so cool," she said as she touched the wing of the new bronze bird while it was still sitting on the flat bed.
"This is a moment in the making. Like oh my God, this is very emotional. I get to touch it before it goes up in the air."
After 57 years with a giant bird beside the highway, Wawa was gooseless for about 24 hours this week, after the rusty steel bird, which stood guard outside the town for 55 years, was removed.
Belanger said it was "surreal" to drive by and not see the landmark.
"The goose is Wawa. It's who we are. And it was gone. It felt empty. The sunset last night looked empty," she says.
Replacing the goose cost about $300,000, with two-thirds coming from the federal and provincial governments, plus donations from citizens and local businesses.
Alex Patterson, the assistant director of community services and tourism for the Municipality of Wawa, says there was no question about replacing the rusty old bird, which was ironically full of bird nests and starting to lean forward.
While Wawa was bustling with mining and forestry jobs back in 1960 when the goose was first put up to welcome highway travellers, it has shrunk to 2,900 people since then and tourism is what keeps the town going.
"I would almost go so far as to say if it wasn't for the goose, there wouldn't be a town," says Patterson, adding that the town is optimistic about potential new gold mines in the area.
"It really is the barometer for the health of the town. When people drive into Wawa and see a rusty old goose, it's a poor reflection of the town."
The old goose is being stored in a secret location to prevent theft by souvenir seekers, but Patterson says they are considering giving pieces of it to major donors.
The new Wawa Goose migrated north after being built in a shop in Trenton, Ont. by Research Casting International.
The plant manager Matt Fair spent many childhood summers visiting his grandparents and the goose in Wawa, but never thought he'd be tasked with building a new one.
Some locals feel the new goose is smaller, but Fair says aside from a few cosmetic changes it is an exact replica made by doing a 3D scan.
"No, it's actually the exact same size. I've actually heard some think it's bigger too," says Fair.
Wawa is famous for its big goose.
But the little town is really a big flock of geese.
They are everywhere. Have a look: