Maxie the Goose.
Built to pivot with the wind, Maxie towers over the Wild Goose Capital of the World.

Maxie, the World's Largest Goose

Field review by the editors.

Sumner, Missouri

Maxie, the World's Largest Goose, receives surprisingly scant recognition for something so big. Forty feet tall, with wings 62 feet wide, she is the most massive thing in Sumner, Missouri (pop. 102), which calls itself the Wild Goose Capital of the World.

Sculptor David Jackson
David Jackson with Maxie's wing, test skeleton, stuffed goose.

But Sumner is a two hour round-trip from the nearest interstate, so Maxie is not a casual destination. And she's usually overshadowed in media coverage by Grady, a goose in Canada barely half her size, and one that Maxie was specifically built to surpass.

Part of the problem is that Maxie is a Canada goose, and people expect to find the World's Largest Canada Goose in Canada, not the USA. Canadians correctly refer to their goose as simply the largest in Canada, but most of its visitors don't imagine that there could be a bigger one somewhere else.

Maxie was built in 1974 by Kansas City sculptor David Jackson (1941-2013). "He was this eclectic hippie artist, always doing something crazy," said his daughter Debbie Jackson, who was 12 years old at the time. There was nothing flighty, however, about this particular project, which was endorsed by Missouri's governor (who later delivered Maxie's dedication speech) and funded with $16,000, a considerable sum then.

Installing the goose.
Assembling Maxie. She was formally dedicated on October 30, 1975, a year after her arrival.

Some of the money came from an American Revolution Bicentennial grant (the World's Largest Prairie Chicken was a similar Bicentennial bird project), but most of it was raised through bootstrap efforts by Sumner citizens. Many donations were gleaned from the goose hunters who flocked to Sumner for its annual Wild Goose Festival. The Festival would kick off goose-hunting season, which didn't end until 20,000 geese had been shot (It doesn't operate that way anymore).

Wild goose hunting in Sumner.
Maxie safely in the distance; proud father and son hunters.

David Jackson built Maxie with fiberglass skin over metal mesh over a steel skeleton, and the entire bird weighed nearly three tons (The attention-grabbing behemoth likely inspired, several years later, the nearby World's Largest Pecan). David gave Maxie bowling ball eyes and coined her name from Branta Canadensis Maxima, the Latin term for the giant Canada goose.

Realizing that something with wings over 60 feet across might actually take flight in a strong weather gust, David tested a scale model of the goose in wind tunnel.

Goose Boosters.
In Sumner's Sportsman's Club bar, the fridge still has its 1970s goose bumper stickers.

The results prompted him to mount Maxie on a bearing -- rumored to be a cannonball -- allowing her to rotate like a weathervane on her pedestal. "If she hadn't been able to move with the wind," said Debbie, "she probably wouldn't still be there."

"She started seizing up a few years ago," said Shirley Fountain, a member of Sumner's Community Betterment committee. Lisa Stewart, another member, concurred. "Some locals poured some grease down her pipe and that got her moving again."

Debbie hadn't thought much about the big goose until April 2017, when she saw an independent film, Different Flowers, that had a brief scene with Maxie in the background. "I yelled, 'That's my dad's goose!,'" she recalled. "It felt like a big ol' cosmic hug."

Maxie the Goose.
Maxie's wings, held by internal turnbuckles, have sagged over the years.

She and her younger sister Denise -- who had never seen Maxie -- took a road trip to Sumner. Meeting local people such as Shirley and Lisa, who had diligently looked after Maxie for decades, inspired Debbie and Denise to front a fundraising drive to repair and maintain their father's creation. Much of the money was again raised by Sumner citizens, who cultivated sponsors, secured corporate donations, and auctioned gooseberry pies, some for thousands of dollars apiece.

We asked Shirley and Lisa if the Canadian town with Grady the goose -- Wawa, Ontario -- ever groused about being surpassed by Maxie. No, they said, the people of Wawa were very polite. "When we told them we were building this goose, they sent us a nice framed letter naming us their Sister City," said Shirley. "We hung it on a wall in city hall."

Welcome sign.

Maxie, the World's Largest Goose

Address:
Park Drive, Sumner, MO
Directions:
From US-36 in Laclede, turn south (no stoplight) onto MO-139. Drive 12 miles, following MO-139. When you reach Sumner continue on MO-139 to the west end of town. You'll see Maxie on the right.
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

General General "Blackjack" Pershing Statue and Birthplace, Laclede, MO - 10 mi.
Former World's Largest PecanFormer World's Largest Pecan, Brunswick, MO - 17 mi.
Walt Disney Hometown MuseumWalt Disney Hometown Museum, Marceline, MO - 16 mi.
In the region:
Walt Disney Dreaming Tree and Barn, Marceline, MO - 17 mi.

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