By John Lauritsen

FRAZEE, Minn. (WCCO) — People will eat plenty of turkey this holiday season, and residents in Frazee are no different. But there’s one bird in town who has no plans to become Christmas dinner.

In this week’s Finding Minnesota, John Lauritsen introduces us to a northern Minnesota turkey who rules the roost.

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“We’ve got the Heartland Trail, the North Country Trail,” mayor Ken Miosek said. “We’ve got a trail now on the outskirts of town that goes right to Detroit Lakes.”

In this town of nearly 1,400, bike trails and waterways have a way of connecting people. And there’s plenty more in the works.

“There are other towns around here too that want to link up with this and keep it going,” said Miosek.

But once you get to downtown Frazee, you follow a different set of tracks. The kind only a giant bird can make.

Hank Ludtke, former mayor, says this isn’t the first turkey in town.

“No, the first one was white,” said former mayor Hank Ludtke.

That one got cooked. Literally. Just days before the town’s Turkey Days festival in 1998 some volunteers were doing maintenance work on the statue when it caught fire. Ludtke will never forget it.

(credit: CBS)

“They were working on the bottom of it and there was a hole up on top and as they started with a torch doing some cutting, the thing caught on fire. The hole acted like a mega chimney and within 7 minutes it was gone,” Ludtke said.

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Frazee’s beloved turkey wasn’t just done, it was well done. But because this was once the largest turkey-producing area in the entire country, donations poured in for a new tom. They got enough money to build one so big it could be called the “largest in the world.”

“The new one is about 5,000 pounds. A little over 5,000 pounds and 24 feet tall,” Ludtke said.

Only this one is made out of steel and fiberglass, not feathers.

“We drive by here all the time and there are cars here and people taking pictures,” Ludtke said.

The funny thing is the turkey is now part of a northern Minnesota tour for roadside attractions.

“You see the otter at Ottertail. The pelican at Pelican Rapids. The loon in Vergas,” Ludtke said.

But none of them rose from the ashes like a Frazee Phoenix — proof that people here love to gobble up the past.

“What they’ll get out of it is some of the history that happened around here,” Ludtke said. “It’s kind of a symbol of the past.”

Frazee also has another turkey statue downtown, but it’s only about a tenth of the size of the one that sits on the hill.

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John Lauritsen