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Turkey collection roosting in library display case

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ROCHELLE B. BIRKELO
November 23, 2011
— Dan Wilcox loves to talk turkey.

"When I was setting up my display, so many people came up to me and shared their stories," he said, referring to his turkey exhibit now appearing in the November exhibit case at Hedberg Public Library.


The Janesville man has searched rummage sales, flea markets, resale and consignment shops and retail stores to compose his collection of gobblers.


"I really have to scan shelves," Wilcox said. But, "it's easier to find turkeys in October and November when everybody is thinking about Thanksgiving."


Wilcox can't resist the hunt for his feathered friends while driving past local thrift stores.


"If I have time I'll run in by the glassware and vases. That's generally where I find a turkey looking at me," he said.


Wilcox won't buy just any turkey.


"They have to be different from my other pieces because I'm running out of space," he said.


Among his most interesting pieces is the turkey with a small pilgrim child sitting next to it.


"I got it at the gift shop at Amish Acres in Indiana. It's papier-mâché so it looks substantial, but is very light," he said.


It's also one of the more expensive pieces in his collection. Wilcox has spent as little as 25 cents and as much as $24 on his turkeys, which include large serving platters and cookie jars and small salt and pepper shakers.


Among his most prized possessions is a turkey-shaped cranberry relish dish his mother made in the 1970s while attending a 4-H ceramic project meeting with him. After years of using the dish for Thanksgiving dinners, she gave it to Wilcox to use when he hosts the traditional holiday family meal.


"I cherish this one special turkey over all the others in my collection," he said.


Wilcox's attraction to turkeys is based on his love of fall and its array of rich colors.


"When I put my collection out, I feel so great because fall is my favorite time," he said.


Wilcox's collection features 90 different pieces, most of which are made from papier-mâché, ceramic or bisque. In choosing which items to include in the library exhibit, he had to separate himself from his attachment to them so he could create a mix of different sizes and colors.


Wilcox also wanted part of his collection, which includes antique pieces, to reflect modern turkeys made of metal or plastic. That's why he included a turkey tray with a poem from his nephew and a metal turkey he bought from a hobby store.


"I was really selective, so everything stood out instead of just a pile of feathers," Wilcox said.


Also a collector of marionettes, black cat figurines and watches, Wilcox wants people to know they can collect items they love without spending a fortune.


"Just make the experience a fun adventure," he said.


IF YOU GO

Dan Wilcox's turkey collection is featured in the November exhibit case now through Nov. 30 at Hedberg Public Library, 316 S. Main St., Janesville.


Library hours are 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday. The library will be closed Thursday, Nov. 24.



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