Thanksgiving takes place nearly every day of the year at Cornwell’s Turkeyville, located approximately 45 miles north of the Ohio border near Marshall, Michigan.
The sprawling complex is home to a restaurant offering all-turkey entrées, as well as made-from-scratch sides and desserts. It also boasts a 5,000-square-foot Country Junction gift shop, an ice cream parlor, a professional dinner theater featuring talented actors and actresses from throughout the country, a 175-site campground complete with swimming pool, and an outdoor gazebo where musicians tune up their instruments on warm summer days.
Special events take place nearly every weekend in keeping with a family philosophy — “People will come to where they have been invited and will return to where they have been made to feel welcome.” These range from flea markets and antique shows to a Renaissance festival and car shows. Cooking classes are offered during the winter months, with participants learning how to make pies, prepare freezer meals, make pastries, and create holiday cookies.
The destination draws people by the thousands, but its origin springs from an auspicious gesture back in 1943. Founders Wayne and Marjorie Cornwell initially planned to raise cows on their country spread. However, illness struck the herd, and they eventually decided to pursue another interest after a neighbor gifted them with a flock of 12 turkeys.
The venture proved successful as the Cornwells introduced a special feed plan that ensured better and richer-tasting birds. They set up a slaughtering operation on the farm to satisfy customer demands.
In the early 1960s, the Cornwells and fellow church members launched a county fair food booth offering turkey sandwiches that were made according to Marjorie’s tried-and-true recipe with white and dark meat on plump buns and finished with butter and Miracle Whip salad dressing.
Requests from folks who wanted turkey sandwiches year-round led Wayne to establish a small dining facility with several milk cans for stools and a couple of tables. The makeshift dining area quickly expanded, and a second dining room was added to accommodate crowds.
“The sandwiches are still popular, but the real star is our turkey dinner with all the trimmings,” says Patti Cornwell, director of marketing and granddaughter-in-law of the founders. “We also have the best turkey Reubens and burgers.”
Turkeys are no longer raised or processed at the property, but there is a flock of resident turkeys that strut around the grounds, much to the delight of adults and children. The birds apparently enjoy classic rock ’n’ roll, as they showed up for a bike night and gobbled along with the music.
“Turkeyville has grown, thanks to lots of good ideas from family members,” Cornwell says. “Sometimes I think we have too many good ideas.”
Among those good ideas: the old-fashioned ice cream parlor, where homemade confections include regular ice cream flavors plus decidedly Turkeyville offerings like Turkey Trax and Jolted Turkey. This is also the place to purchase homemade fudge and caramel corn.
In 1968, the Cornwells introduced their dinner theater, complete with top-notch productions and bountiful buffet meals. With the current show, Dashing Through the Snow, playing through Dec. 18, plans are underway for the 2022 season, which will include The 39 Steps, Honky Tonk Angels, The Odd Couple, Church Basement Ladies, and Still Dreaming of a White Christmas.
COVID-19 ushered in a new idea with the kitchen turning out frozen dinners to prepare at home. Still on the planning board are a children’s theater and an outdoor farm adventure.
Turkeyville, 18935 151/2 Mile Road, Marshall, Michigan. 269-781-4293 or www.turkeyville.com.