Having lived my childhood years in the northern Ontario community of Wawa, the question, “What is your hometown’s main attraction?” is basically a no-brainer to me. Wawa is known as “land of the big goose”, which is suiting considering that we have a 150,000 pound statue of a goose right at the entrance to our town. This 27 foot tall statue was built in September, 1960 to be a monument to the geese who made this place their migratory home, living alongside the native people long before the arrival of the first white man in 1622. Our town’s name, “Wawa”, Ojibwe for the word “goose”, is paying tribute to both, the first inhabitants of this land and the migratory bird making its biannual passage.
The original goose was built from plaster over a chicken wire frame in September of 1960, which marked the opening of the TransCanada Highway. This section of highway from Wawa to Sault Ste. Marie was the last section of the TransCanada to be completed, connecting Eastern and Western Canada. Being a most difficult section with many steep hills and sharp turns, discussion ensued to run the highway inland away from Lake Superior. However, spirited people of Wawa walked through the bush to Sault Ste. Marie, 240 km away, to prove to the government that the route was passable, and that the highway should follow the scenic shoreline of the Great Lake. This began the era of Wawa’s tourism industry, as our town was now strategically located on the Lake Superior Circle Route. To be sure no one would miss our town, the Wawa Goose beckons to tourist driving by on the Trans Canada highway, inviting them to take a break at the Tourist Information Centre, and take a photo with the Goose which has become one of the most photographed landmarks in Northern Ontario. Its image was even used on the 2010 postage stamp for Canadian Post. Once having stopped, tourists and passers-by will discover the treasure of our small town and its surrounding natural beauty.
The original statue of the Goose needed to be replaced after three years by a replica made from rolled cold steel. Now this statue added to its significance by representing the iron-ore industry and Algoma Ore Division which was the main employer of the town, supplying Algoma Steel in Sault Ste. Marie. With replacement of the first models, Wawa has become a breeding ground of sorts for goose statues, and one can count atleast 3 large model geese while driving through town.
Unfortunately the Wawa Goose is once again requiring replacement, having weathered many winter storms, spring floods, and hot sunny summer days. This time there is no major industry to help fund the project. Algoma Ore closed in 1998, and while numerous gold mines and lumber based industries have come and gone over the years, a general decline in the economy and population has become a reality for Wawa as it has for many other small northern communities. As well the increased price of gas and increased border crossing security requiring passports for both Canadians and Americans has caused a decline in tourism.
For these reasons, we face a bit of a financial challenge in replacing our Goose once more, which has begun to look a little rugged all over again. While the naked eye may only detect a few rust stains on the outside, which are disguised to some degree by the beautiful long red scarf it wears in the winter months, the engineers claim that the inside structure is showing its age. The municipality is working hard to raise funds to bring a new Goose to town, keeping Wawa on the map and in the minds of people everywhere. Information about fundraising for this cause can be found in the following link: http://www.thewawagoose.com/
Wawa has been a gorgeous place to grow up. The close-knit community provides a safety and freedom to children that can only be offered by a small town. Although the present economic state of Wawa may sound bleak, Wawa has always been described as a boom and bust town. We are now on the brink of another boom. The Argonaut/Prodigy gold mine is a promising project being explored in the Wawa area . As well, the Rentech pellet mill is scheduled to open in 2014. These projects alone estimate 300 to 400 direct jobs, and numerous secondary jobs, restoring Wawa to its stature of a bustling and thriving community. And of course, you may remember that diamonds have been found in our streams and shorelines, and diamond exploration continues to this day. Maybe the next Wawa Goose will be made of gold with diamonds for eyes.
Thanks to Niagara Falls for sponsoring the Miss Teen Canada World 2nd blog challenge!