Longmonters, young and old, have stories to tell of the Canadian geese who visit town each year, whether it is of the birds strolling slowly across Boston Avenue or gliding the waters of Lake McIntosh the geese, and stories, are plentiful. There is one story that few may remember and that is of the Geese Galore project —geese statues hidden around Longmont. However, former mayor, Leona Stoecker remembers it fondly.
There are only a half-dozen geese left in public around Longmont, the rest of the flock has flown. Many of the geese suffered at the hands of time and vandalism, others were sold to private owners.
Stoecker has binders full of goose information; photographs, records of initial proposals, receipts for fabrication and donations. She still calls herself Mother Goose due to her affection and current involvement with Geese Galore, though she’s running out of space for goose-themed decorations in her house now.
“People keep sending them to me,” Stoecker said. “They’re all quite lovely but I’m out of places to display them.”
The Geese Galore project started in 2001, toward the end of Stoecker’s eight-year-term as mayor. Inspired by the painted cows in New York, Chicago and Switzerland, Stoecker and the city staff, at the time,commissioned Geese Galore to celebrate and raise funds for arts and culture in Longmont. The collaboration involved the Longmont Museum, Art in Public Places, the Old Firehouse Art Center, St. Vrain Valley Schools and more.
“It all started when I was completing my eighth year (as mayor),” Stoecker said. “Sandy Jensen had seen these cows and she suggested we do prairie dogs, but I told her not while I was mayor. Canada geese are so prolific in Longmont, we wanted something that would represent us that was whimsical and not too serious.”
Beau Townsend, who teaches art at Erie Middle School, worked on the Sister Cities Goose, which now greets residents at the Longmont Civic Center, with Lory Ohs. Townsend and Ohs taught art classes at the city of Longmont Youth Center when they heard about Geese Galore.
“I love teaching art, talking about it, studying it and collecting it, but creating art isn’t always my priority,” Townsend said.
Townsend and Ohs put together a sketch to represent their art students, though they didn’t expect it to be one of the designs chosen. The theme of the Sister Cities was chosen because of Townsend’s interest in chaperoning students with the Longmont Sister Cities Association, or LSCA — an opportunity he had yet to explore — and honoring Longmont in a meaningful way.
Longmont’s Sister Cities — Ciudad Guzman, Mexico and Chino, Japan — are represented on the goose itself to highlight the relationship between the three cities around the world. Townsend recalled the excitement when the finished piece was purchased by Art in Public Places, and seeing the project included in books, calendars, t-shirts and temporary tattoos.
Even more so, Townsend credits Geese Galore and the Sister Cities Goose as the catalyst toward working with the LSCA, traveling to Mexico and Japan.
“At the culmination of the project, Ohs and I were invited to attend a party thrown by the LSCA,” Townsend said. “That opened the door for me to apply as a chaperone for students traveling to Japan. After that experience, I joined the board of directors of the LSCA and even served as president of the board for a time.”
The geese made their debut in July 2002 during ArtWalk, appearing in their temporary locations all around Longmont. The Geese Galore Gala was held in October 2002 at the Longmont Museum, where the 23 geese were auctioned off to raise money for the arts and culture of Longmont. According to Stoecker, Geese Galore raised nearly $65,000 in total. The funds were used for events with the Longmont Symphony and supporting Art in Public Places, as well as starting Arts Galore with the Longmont Community Foundation.
Only a few years ago, there were more geese in town. The Ben Franklin goose used to reside at the corner of Fourth Avenue and Coffman Street, at the old Times-Call parking lot. It has since been removed after the Franklin goose fell victim to time and vandalism.
“Darlene Valentine, the artist, has the remains of the Ben Franklin goose in her yard,” Stoecker said. “It’s sadly just not repairable.”
The six-foot tall and three-foot wide geese were constructed of fiberglass, mounted on a concrete base. Stoecker pointed to the lack of reinforcement in the neck being the cause of most of the damage the geese received over the years. The Ben Franklin goose wasn’t the only one to fall prey to time and vandalism. The Moo Goose at the Longmont Dairy and Once Upon a Blue Goose at the Longmont Museum were both damaged beyond repair.
The Golden Goose lived at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Main Street — near Crackpots and Old Town Outfitters — for nearly a decade before Stoecker had to find a new home for it. Stoecker’s son, Dave, is the executive director of Longmont Christian School and offered to give the goose a permanent home outside their main entrance.
“I found Scott Nix from Nixcavating, who agreed to move it for us for free,” Stoecker said. “They brought a skid loader and loaded the goose and base on it and drove it across Main Street and down Collyer. Our son (Dave) drove behind it the whole way with his blinkers on, so people didn’t think they were hallucinating a goose.”
Stoecker and her son both shared photos of the Golden Goose at Longmont Christian School, decorated in a variety of seasonal outfits. Stoecker said the children at the school have been enamored of it and grateful to make it their own. There are plans for the students to make and decorate smaller geese to give the Golden Goose a new flock of goslings.
Tulips LaGoose lives at The Flower Bin, at the corner of Sunset Street and Nelson Road, though the original location was at Blue Ribbon Farms.
John Sipes, owner of Blue Ribbon Farm at Hover Street and Rogers Road, is proud to have the Nesting Mother Goose on his property. The field is mown to provide a path for anyone that wants a picture with it. Sipes said when the geese were first revealed, he volunteered Blue Ribbon to house Tulips LaGoose initially.
“Tulips LaGoose was my goose first,” Sipes laughed. “The Flower Bin outbid me on my own goose. But we’re really happy to have this one here.”
The Ironclad Robo-Goosinator lives on the roof of Left Hand Brewery now, supposedly placed there after it was vandalized by youths according to Stoecker. It can be seen from the street and patio, and was memorialized in a mural inside the tasting room.
The Cyber Goose is on the Xilinx campus near where Ken Pratt Boulevard turns into the Diagonal Highway. A few others have found safe homes on private property, though Stoecker wouldn’t reveal their locations out of respect for their new keepers.
Canada geese still flock to Longmont, whether residents find them charming and whimsical or not. Longmonters looking for a little local art history can still go on a wild goose chase of their own.