As far as diplomatic missions go, the international moose summit is one of the more unusual ones. But for the people of Moose Jaw, Sask., this is serious business.
The iconic “Mac the Moose” was dethroned as the world’s largest moose four years ago by a rival sculpture in a small Norway municipality — and the Prairies want the crown back.
“We are having an engineer look at Mac,” Moose Jaw Mayor Fraser Tolmie said. “We have to look at his lifespan and make sure what we do is feasible and structurally sound.”
After weeks of tongue-in-cheek trash talk, the deputy mayor of Stor-Elvdal, Norway, landed in the Friendly City to meet Mac and the locals for herself.
“We came in from the airport last night and I saw it on the way in,” Linda Henriksen said. “We were on the road and I was like ‘It’s tiny! It looks so little! Today, closer and in broad daylight, it’s huge.”
A small contingent of people with Scandinavian connections gathered to greet Henriksen. Marg Springett even brought moose-shaped cookies, complete with gingersnap droppings.
Henriksen will get the full Moose Jaw experience in her first visit to Canada. She’ll tour the city, explore the tunnels, and take in her first hockey game Tuesday night when the Moose Jaw Warriors face off against the Saskatoon Blades.
A teacher herself, she’ll visit Vanier Collegiate for a pancake breakfast.
Then it’s down to business.
Norway’s sculpture stands a mere thirty centimetres taller than Mac.
Moosehead Breweries and a GoFundMe page have raised a collective $40,000 dollars to give Mac the upper hand. No taxpayer money is being used for the proposed upgrade.
If that happens, Henriksen says they’ll concede defeat and they’re fine with that.
“Of course we would like to have the biggest moose, but there’s nothing we can do with our moose as it is a piece of art,” she admitted. “We’re friendly people and we just want to show the world we are actually happy if Mac becomes the biggest moose.”
As a compromise, Tolmie is willing to admit Norway’s is better looking than its 30-year-old counterpart.
“I know I said it looks like a hood ornament, but that’s just been jealousy in my own heart,” Tolmie joked. “Someday I’d like to get my picture taken with him.”
This summit goes beyond simply butting antlers for the title of world’s biggest — there’s talk of twinning the cities and writing a children’s book about the pair of mighty moose.
While nothing is set in stone, Tolmie and Henriksen agree the worldwide attention has been a major boost for the two communities.
“We’re seeing the economic benefit,” Tolmie said. “There’s more tourism coming, people out and about. It’s – 40 C and people are out shopping.”
“It’s only 2,500 people there, so not everyone knows where we are located,” Henriksen added. “If I say I’m from Stor-Elvdal not everyone knows where it is — even Norwegians — so this has really put us on the map.”
The summit will continue until Thursday, when official agreements, if any, will be announced.