New KTD souvenir createdRushmore taxidermist creates 150 small turkey statues
By: Beth Rickers, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — A whole flock of turkeys has hatched in recent weeks in Brian Almberg’s rural Rushmore workshop.
Almberg, a taxidermist by trade and member of the King Turkey Day Board of Directors, has created 150 small statues to commemorate the 35th anniversary of the Great Gobbler Gallop. The idea and ability to create such a souvenir evolved out of Almberg’s work with polyurethane, particularly in re-creating antlers.
“I’ve done a lot of molding work,” Almberg explained, presenting scenarios when a model set of antlers is needed. “If there’s more than one person in the hunting party, one guy gets to take the trophy antlers home, so another guy might want a model. Or, the antlers are worth so much money that if a guy gets a big deer, he might sell the antlers to a collector and wants a set for himself. Sporting goods stores will also take them for their displays.”
When he decided to undertake the souvenir project, Brian started with a sketch created by his wife, Jodi, who happens to be a member of this year’s Worthington Turkey Race Team. Modeled somewhat after T.J. Turkey — a cartoon turkey created by Kris Tutje and Jill Lutterman in the 1980s to promote the festival — this new bird sports running shoes and a bit of personality.
“It’s kind of a caricature of a turkey,” Almberg described. “I tried to make him look as pleasant as I could, cute and unassuming. It has a personality. His head is too big for his body, and he’s got the tennis shoes on.”
Almberg also made sure the small statue would appeal to both local residents and their rivals for the title of Turkey Capital of the World from Cuero, Texas.
“He’s kind of a non-denominational turkey,” Almberg said with a laugh. “There’s a little ‘R’ on one sneaker for Cuero’s turkey, Ruby Begonia, and a dollar sign on the other for Paycheck, so it can represent either bird.”
The pedestal upon which the bird rests has “35 years” engraved across the front, “King Turkey Day” on one side and “Turkeyfest,” Cuero’s celebration, on the other.
The statues are created in a vulcanized rubber mold, encapsulated inside a three-part mother mold. The polyurethane is a two-part mixture that sets up within minutes.
“I paint them, give them a black wash coat and airbrush it with a lacquer-based paint,” to create the antique gold finish, Almberg detailed. “Then there’s a clear coat, and a felt base is put on the bottom.”
The petite turkey’s personality has come out during the process, resulting in Almberg giving voice to his creations — a cartoonish sound that he characterizes as a cross between his beagle Gracie’s voice and Kitty from the TV show “That 70s Show.”
“That’s what happens when you work by yourself,” Almberg admitted with a grin.
Almberg also hinted at a bigger project in the works that will be unveiled at tonight’s King Turkey Day Mixer at Pioneer Village. He hopes that people will come out and see what’s being planned for the Worthington community.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” he continued. “I love the Turkey Day thing. It’s a cool thing for this town. I can remember riding in the kiddie parade with I was 6 or 7 years old on my John Deere pedal tractor. … My grandpa raised turkeys, came here with $12 in his pocket and raised turkeys. My mom used to ride horse in front of the turkeys in the parade. … What I like best about it is you see people that you don’t see any other time of the year, not even at holidays. Everyone comes home for Turkey Day.”
The turkey statues are being sold at the Worthington Area Chamber of Commerce and will also be available tonight at the King Turkey Day Mixer.