World's Largest Turkey
July 1, 1998. Frazee, Minnesota. On a hilltop overlooking the western entrance to this peaceful town, members of Frazee's maintenance department are secretly laboring over Big Tom -- the 22-foot-tall beloved civic symbol of this, the Turkey Capital of the World -- working against the clock to get him shipshape for Frazee's upcoming Turkey Days festival. With a blowtorch.
An errant tongue of superheated flame ignites one of the legs of the highly combustible paper mache gobbler. Within seconds, Big Tom is wrapped in a death mantle of black smoke, its body feeding the insatiable fire like grandma feeding gruel to a Thanksgiving season orphanage. Fire departments from neighboring towns rush in to contain the blaze -- much to the embarrassment of Frazee's maintenance crew -- but it's already too late. All that remains is a pile of unrecognizable slag.
For the first time in a dozen years the Turkey Days festival went on without Big Tom. His charred pedestal of honor was instead occupied by a crudely shaped paper mache egg.
But not for long! The cycle of civic symbol life came full circle on September 19, 1998 -- when a new, improved Big Tom arrived in town -- weighing nearly three tons, with 4,000 individual fiberglass feathers -- once again providing the visual gravy to Frazee's meaty boast.
Although Frazee received by far its most publicity ever because of Big Tom's fiery exit, and although we personally can't resist a good tourist attraction fire photo, we do not encourage other towns to immolate their large, weather-beaten, combustible civic symbols.