25th anniversary recognition Saturday of Turkey Days

File photo
Smoke and flames poured from the original Big Tom in July of 1998. The incident’s 25th anniversary will be commemorated at the site of the fire during this year’s Turkey Days on Saturday, July 29, at 1 p.m.

By Robert Williams


One event that will be special to this year’s Turkey Days festival is the recognition of the 25th anniversary of the burning of Big Tom the Turkey.

Chaired by Denise Fett, the event will highlight the festival’s busiest day with an afternoon Burning of the Turkey celebration at the Lions Park site. 

The original Big Tom was dedicated Aug. 3, 1986, after being completed at a cost of $20,000. Originally, Big Tom was a bronze color before problems with the exterior caused it to be repainted white.

The shape of Big Tom garnered complaints about it not being proportioned enough like a real turkey and the work was frequently under repair.

Construction of a replacement was already underway when the job was delegated to Dave Oswald of Sparta, Wisconsin. Oswald had a resume that included Salem Sue: The World’s Largest Holstein Cow in North Dakota, located in New Salem.

Big Tom went up in flames just before the start of the 1998 Turkey Days when a flame from a blowtorch ignited the statue while volunteer maintenance work was being done.

The turkey disappeared in less than 10 minutes, well before fire crews could salvage any of it.

Oswald’s replacement Big Tom II was installed a few months later on September 19.

The 25th anniversary Burning of the Turkey will be held at 1 p.m., on Saturday, July 29. Note the location of Lions Park as the downtown turkey was incorrectly listed as the location on the Turkey Days flier.