By Mike Binkley, WCCO-TV
FRAZEE, Minn. (WCCO) — Minnesota is home to several giant roadside attractions — Paul Bunyan, a huge walleye and a prairie chicken, to name a few.
But as far as we know, only one of them has ever gone up in flames. That would be the world’s largest turkey in Frazee, a town in Becker County.
It’s a symbol of Minnesota’s turkey industry, which leads the nation.
“Turkey production has been a prominent, continuous business in this area,” said Frazee’s mayor, Hank Ludtke, “and will remain so into the future.”
The Big Tom statue is more than 20-feet high, more than 5,000 pounds of fiberglass and steel, overlooking the town. It’s the second big turkey for the city. The first one was accidentally cooked during some maintenance work by three volunteers in 1998.
“Somehow Ross got a little fire going on one side,” said Kenny Fett, referring to his friend, Ross Mickelson, who had a blowtorch. “All of a sudden, the turkey just went poof, poof! And the smoke come out from all over the whole body. And then we started stepping back and that’s when we were like, uh oh, we got troubles. We knew that.”
The town’s symbol was up in flames, just weeks before the annual Turkey Days Festival.
“We all three were pretty nervous about what we were going to say,” said Fett. “I know Ross wanted me to go get the fire department. And I said ‘no,’ I said, ‘maybe nobody will notice.'”
No chance of that. The smoke could be seen for miles.
“They were here in a matter of minutes, laughing their heads off, too when they pulled in to see the three of us standing here,” he said.
It turns out, the people in town were quite forgiving. Turkey Days went on without Big Tom for one year, and then the donations poured in for another one.
“It turned out good, and we got a new better turkey than we really had before,” said Fett, “so it’s been alright for our community.”
The community hasn’t forgotten, though, when it comes to maintenance projects in Big Turkey park.
“We do get to work around the area here, we’ve got a little work we want to do with the bushes. But they haven’t asked us to do nothing with the actual turkey itself no more,” he said.