WORTHINGTON — Mark Fujan may well be the first King Turkey Day button artist to find his inspiration in a church pew while he was supposed to be completing his wife’s two-hour time slot in adoration.
Perhaps that’s why the Worthington native said there was a little divine intervention involved when his cartoon-like take on the turkey race between Worthington’s beloved Paycheck and the Cuero, Texas bird, Ruby Begonia, was selected to adorn this year’s collectible button.
Fujan was in Worthington last week to see the final product from his sketches, a button that showcases not only the two popular turkeys, but depicts the lost race of 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic halted plans for the two towns to compete for the title of Turkey Capital of the World. Coincidentally, it is Ruby Begonia who is wearing the 2020 race card, while Paycheck is in the lead with his 2021 race card. The drawing also shows Ruby’s face mask blowing in the wind.
“There were a lot of things that were not very positive about 2020 that we would like to forget,” Fujan said. “The pandemic prevented us from holding Turkey Day, which makes this year all the more special.”
The theme is “Double the Fun in ’21,” a reference to making up for the lost celebrations last year.
Fujan has long dreamed of being the King Turkey Day button artist, dating back to his youth when he grew up neighbors to renowned wildlife artist Jerry Raedeke. Raedeke’s work was showcased on several KTD buttons, and Fujan proudly displays the framed prints — along with the associated buttons — in his Fairmont home.
“I developed an interest in art because of going to Jerry’s studio and actually watching him work,” Fujan shared. “With Jerry as my inspiration, I thought if I could ever get a print selected it would be wonderful and I would be thrilled and honored. It would be a token of my respect for Jerry.”
Fujan said he drew many different sketches during adoration, and gave KTD committee members several designs from which to choose the winning entry. Ultimately, the design that was selected also gives a nod to a couple of Worthington icons, Larry Lang and Tom Tracy. Lang was the creator of those delicious onion rings from the old Michael’s steakhouse that inspired the movie, “Ringmaster” and Tracy was a veteran and Honor Guard leader. An artistically drawn onion ring encircles the button, while a shadow of a Harley Davidson motorcycle rider can be found on the right side of the button.
“I felt we lost some real legends this past year — very inspirational people,” Fujan said. “As a family, we liked both of those people. I was very proud of what they accomplished in their own, unique ways.”
And now, Fujan can add to his own list of accomplishments as the KTD button artist.
“I’m thrilled because, growing up, it was an event we participated in. We still try to get back for King Turkey Day,” he said.
Fujan’s KTD experiences progressed from standing on the curbside awaiting candy to walking or riding in the parade, then driving local dairy princesses and pageant queens down the parade route. In later years he joined classmates on reunion floats, and now, he likes to meet up with friends in the beer garden.
“I’m proud to have grown up in Worthington,” Fujan said. “Thank you to the Turkey Day board for giving me the honor of being selected for the Turkey Day button.
“Everybody should get out and buy a Turkey Day button to support this great community event.”
King Turkey Day buttons are available for purchase at the Worthington Area Chamber of Commerce, 1121 Third Ave., during normal business hours. The KTD Board of Directors will also have a booth at the fair this week offering the buttons for sale.