They came, they pooped, they conquered.
If you live along the Front Range, you'll probably roll your eyes upon learning that the Canada goose was once hunted nearly to extinction. But it's true: The honkers almost disappeared until their ranks were replenished in the '60s through captive-breeding programs. In Colorado, they settled among the lush greenery of parks and golf courses everywhere, including Longmont, where their peskier qualities became a civic issue. The upshot? Since it can't get rid of its Canada geese, the city decided to celebrate them.
In the spirit of Chicago's 1999 Cows on Parade and other animal spinoffs across the nation, Longmont is now being inundated by Geese Galore, a many-leveled citywide project centered on 22 seven-foot rigid urethane geese decorated by artists and displayed around town. In addition, there are the decoys: smaller goose statues customized initially by school groups for sale by auction, and now by anyone willing to shell out a forty-buck donation. This Friday, dozens of the creations will be lined up on Main Street during the town's monthly summer ArtWalk event.
How did it all take flight? A couple of years ago, Geese Galore founding mother Sandy Jensen thought it would be fun for Longmont to have its own version of the Cow Parade, so she got a group together, including Mayor Leona Stoecker, to brainstorm. Geese, she notes, were not their first choice. "The Cow Parade people looked at the historical reasons for using cows, so we decided to do that, too." What would it be? Prairie dogs? Sugar beets? Turkeys? (One of Longmont's longest-lived industries was a turkey-processing plant.) Nope, none of the above. "Leona wouldn't let us do turkeys," says Jensen. "She didn't think that would be appropriate. It had to be something likable. The goose is a likable animal, and in Longmont, we do like our geese, though not always what they leave behind."
Though Jensen lobbied for "Get Goosed in Longmont" as the project's title, Stoecker once again interceded, and "Geese Galore" was hatched.
The cast geese -- among them the Celestial Goose, the Cyber Goose, the Moo Goose, the Little Deuce Goose and the irresistible Ironclad Robo-Goosinator -- descended on the town. But the birds created on the community end of the project (a first, note Stoecker and Jensen, for the animal-parade concept) are so overrun by creative whimsy, you won't believe they were dreamed up by ordinary citizens. Entries include Emeril Lagoosey, Goosey in the Sky With Diamonds, Toulouse la Goose and Henri Mageese, as well as one necktied gander studying a Doppler radar chart, in the manner of Fox 31 News weather-watcher Bob Goosman.
The project is an unprecedented hit in Longmont. "People are flocking from all over," says Stoecker. Adds Jensen: "I am the artist of one goose, and I like to go by and make sure she's still clean and properly dressed. I run into all kinds of people going from goose to goose."
So what do the real geese think? "We're not sure," says Jensen. "But we've learned a lot about geese. For one thing, they do not have perception of size. It doesn't matter how big a goose is; they still just think it's a goose. A lot of people might say we don't need to attract any more geese to town, but Leona and I went by a pond recently, and there was not a goose in sight. We couldn't believe it. We said, 'My goodness, have we scared away our geese?'"
Not likely. Geese and humans are both welcome in Longmont. "Tell people to come get goosed," Jensen says.
Adds the ever-proper Stoecker, "We should explain that in Sandy's dictionary, 'get goosed' also means to get excited. Just so you understand where we're coming from."