The concrete goose stood on its perch near the sidewalk for 10 years without any clothes on.
Then, one September morning, the goose was dressed up. She wore a neon bathing suit and then a checkered dress and then a bumblebee costume. When snow fell early in the season, she wore a yellow raincoat. When the sun came out, she posed with golf clubs.
The goose is dressed up to bring smiles to whoever walks or drives by this house near Palmer Park. The goose is dressed up because, well, quarantine makes people do silly things. People like the Kearney family.
The geese outfits were already there, packed up in the house somewhere and waiting to be stumbled upon by Shawn Kearney.
She’s been staying with her parents in Colorado Springs since July after her art director job in Minneapolis went remote. At first, the little clothes seemed like the kind of stuff to give away.
Instead, she and her parents, Kent and Denise, decided to put them to use. Neighbors noticed. They took pictures on their daily walks. They dropped “thank you” notes in the mailbox. They called to say how happy the sight made them.
“We realized it’s bringing a little joy to people,” Shawn said. “We decided since 2020 has not been so grand, we’ll keep doing it.”
They added props and more characters, like a cement bunny. They gave the goose a name, Gertie, after Denise’s grandmother. They came up with outfits for all kinds of occasions, from National Coffee Day to laundry day.
“We try to go all out on Fridays,” Shawn said.
Like, on a recent Friday, when Gertie decided to run for president.
If this kind of sight is new to you, it may be surprising to know dressing up lawn geese goes way back.
The trend likely started in the 1980s and gained popularity across Midwest states through the next decade, according to an article in The Atlantic titled, “Nothing Says Midwest Like a Well-Dressed Porch Goose.”
It’s so quintessentially Midwestern that, as The Atlantic article noted, a lawn goose and its outfits were must-have props on the set of the ABC sitcom “The Middle,” which followed a middle-class family living in Indiana. The Chicago Tribune called lawn geese clothing “an underground fashion rage in the 1990s.”
It was happening in Nebraska where the Kearney family is from and where matriarch Denise hopped on the trend.
“Back in the ’80s, it was a kind of a thing,” Shawn says. “Then it died away.”
And without downtime created by the coronavirus pandemic, perhaps it wouldn’t be alive today outside a Colorado Springs house. Each member of the Kearney family looks forward to Gertie the Goose’s morning outfit reveal.
Kent, who is in his 70s and retired, says it’s given him something fun to do during quarantine. He’s built a miniature ironing board for one scene and a pulpit for when Gertie posed as a priest.
“I enjoy it immensely,” he said, especially the chance to chat with neighbors.
He’s talked to a neighbor who planned to quit their daily walks, but kept them going just to see what the geese was wearing.
Kearney’s wife is “pretty much stationary” after a bad car accident a few years back. The first thing she does each morning is to get up and look at Gertie’s outfits on Instagram.
Dressing Gertie has given daughter Shawn, who usually blows glass as a hobby, a creative outlet while recovering from shoulder surgery.
“It’s so stupid that it’s great,” she says.
Eventually, she says, they’ll probably run out of ideas. But they plan to dress Gertie through the end of the year. They had plenty of costume ideas for Halloween. And they have Santa Claus costumes laying around.
She started the Instagram page for Gertie mostly so her friends back in Minnesota could follow along. With less than 40 followers, Gertie isn’t famous there. But she’s plenty well-known in her neighborhood.
“Whenever we stop, we’re going to have let people know somehow,” Kearney said. “They kind of count on it.”