City Manager: Quirky Turkey’s biggest winner was community

Residents and visitors gobbled up Lebanon’s Quirky Turkey Pageant art project during the month of August.

More than 250 votes were collected designating favorites among the 28 decorated turkeys lining Main Street, and the winner of the pageant received 25 percent of the votes, said Gary Marks, city manager. Lebanon Arts Commission members voted on four additional categories, as well.

Let’s talk turkey, though. 

The project was a way to encourage art in the community, as well as help revive the downtown area as the heart of the community, Marks said. He believes the Quirky Turkey Pageant successfully brought more people into the downtown area and into the Linn County Arts Guild Gift and Gallery, where voting took place.

Gina Darby, treasurer of the Arts Guild, said they had as many as four to five times more people come into the store during August, and sales increased by about $500 to $600.

“We’ve heard a lot of people say they should make this an annual thing because they just loved it,” said Freda Darby, vice president of the Arts Guild. “It brought more people in, and they were laughing. Everybody really thought that was so neat, the variety of people’s imagination.”

Since the Arts Guild was the sole voting location, it made sense that they saw an increase in patronage, but other downtown businesses along Main Street reported mixed feedback about how the turkey pageant affected them. Some said they saw no change in the amount of people who visited their store, while others said they saw an increase of visitations in the first couple weeks.

“I think it was the cutest, most clever, pleasant, awesome thing that Lebanon’s ever done,” said Shannon Miller, owner of Serendipity Cafe. “I’ve had customers from Brownsville, I’ve had customers from Corvallis, I had a customer from Dallas, that just came to see the turkeys and walk around and check them out.”

The Arts Commission is thinking about doing it again next year, but perhaps with a different theme, Marks said. At one of their meetings, they discussed the possibility of doing a Ducks versus Beavers theme, but what it comes down to is what kind of medium they can find at a reasonable size and cost.

If it happens again, some businesses would like to be able to participate as a voting location.

“It’d be better to have entries all the way up and down the whole street,” said Ron Salee at Treml’s Jewelry. “Plus, what that will give you is an idea on your saturation.”

The entire flock will make a brief comeback to be auctioned off during the upcoming Lebanon Brewfest on Saturday, Sept. 29.

The turkeys will be displayed together one last time during a silent auction which will be held near Strawberry Plaza, 847 S. Main St., from 1 to 4 p.m. Debit/credit cards and cash will be accepted. All proceeds from the auction will be split four ways, to:  the Greater Santiam Boys and Girls Club, Lebanon Arts Commission, Linn County Arts Guild and to the artist for partial reimbursement of materials used to create their turkey.