Restoration of world's largest wild goose could soon take flight

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SUMNER – The average wild Canada goose’s wingspan is 4.2 to 5.6 feet, according to National Geographic. Maxie, the world’s largest wild goose, has a wingspan at least 11 times that at 62 feet, but her wings are made of fiberglass and steel.

Maxie sits in the community park of Sumner, Missouri, a small town of about 100 people in Chariton County. At 41 feet tall, she towers over her fellow geese and people who come to see her, and has done so for the last 43 years.

She is named after the scientific name for Giant Canada Goose, Branta Canadensis Maxima.

The town commissioned Maxie in 1974 to commemorate its status as the “Wild Goose Capitol of the World.”

Kansas City artist David Jackson built Maxie in the mid 70s. His daughter Debbie Jackson said Sumner had 200,000 migratory geese coming from Canada back then.

Now, Debbie Jackson and her two sisters – Dawna O’Donohue and Denise Cummings – want to restore Maxie and preserve their father’s legacy. David Jackson died in 2013. Their efforts started in April 2017 at the Kansas City FilmFest, when Debbie Jackson saw Maxie in “Different Flowers.” 

“At the time, it just hit me so emotionally. It felt like a great big cosmic hug from my dad, and I just felt like my dad was reaching out to me,” Debbie Jackson said.

She said her father was a great artist, and the sisters want Maxie to be there for years to come. They all live two hours away from Maxie and took a field trip to Sumner in summer 2017 because they had never seen her in person. Cummings said they wanted to get an idea of how she was doing.

“The fiberglass is going to need repair. There may be some structural issues that we need to address, and so those are some of the items that we want to make sure she’s in good shape,” she said.

The sisters said the project is bigger than themselves and Sumner has welcomed their help. They said they hope Maxie’s restoration would bring more eco-tourism and awareness to the town.

On their trip, they met another set of sisters, Shirley Fountain and Sharon Shatto, who have helped preserve Maxie over the years.

Fountain and Shatto have pushed for the Missouri Community Betterment group in Sumner to own the statue so it can have tax-exempt status for donations. Debbie Jackson said she estimates restoration will cost somewhere between $30,000 and $50,000, but final estimates aren't in yet.

The three sisters have set up a GoFundMe page to raise money to form an non-profit organization that would allow them to accept large corporate donations for their cause. They achieved their initial goal in two months, raising enough money to form the organization. Debbie said they currently are in the process of getting that set up with Chariton County. 

Cummings said everything that has happened so far shows why now is the perfect time to restore Maxie.

“The statue needs it, we have the time to do it, the resources and certainly the enthusiasm to do it as well. And it’s just been an amazing journey so far,” she said. “Meeting the people, hearing their stories and how Maxie has interwoven into their live - it’s very special for sure," she said.

[Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct a misspelled name.]