In the best way possible, ‘The Turkeys of Atwood Ave’ proves Madison will celebrate just about anything

Compiled by enthusiastic bird aficionados and strung together with a goofy tropical music soundtrack, Downtown Dailies’ docu-short is a charming little mixtape from the Madison neighborhood

When the Greater Madison Jazz Consortium rolls through the Schenk-Atwood neighborhood with its “Strollin'” series, unassuming residents might be surprised at the sudden upswell in local jazz musicians jamming out in their neighborhood’s bars and restaurants. If the response to the jazz crawl is any indication, they’re cool with it. There’s something distinctly Madisonian about the city’s embrace of local arts. True to that Wisconsin state pride, Madison is fantastic at celebrating its residents and culture.

But what about celebrating its turkeys? That question, however obscure, was answered in April of 2014, when a flock of wild turkeys abruptly turned up along Atwood Ave and just sorta hung around for the next year. The quaint phenomenon was picked up by local news teams and received extensive coverage in a local Facebook group. The Turkeys of Madison, Wisconsin Group also happens to be the primary source of The Turkeys of Atwood Ave, a new docu-short from the Madison-based Downtown Dailies. It screens at four separate locations at this year’s Central Wisconsin Film Festival.

Dailies’ Gretta Wing Miller and producing partner Aarick Beher pull from the aforementioned social media group, recalling real stories from the group members’ posts. Danielle Dresden narrates the vast majority of the stories with a soothing enthusiasm that plays over posted photos and cell phone footage, complete with that lake effect wind gently blowing against built-in microphones. Like anything outsourced, the strength of The Turkeys of Atwood Ave is ultimately dependent on its source material. While the quality is variable and amateurish, there’s a genuine spontaneity to every minute. With the tropical guitar pickings of world music duo Mal-O-Dua (who play a regular bi-weekly gig in the area), it’s a charming mixtape from one of Madison’s blue collar neighborhoods.

As someone who writes about local cinema, I want to be clear that not every Wisconsin-made film feels cut from its state cloth; that would be both condescending and sloppy. But Miller and Beher — and really, those Facebookers — bottle that Midwestern “friendly” stereotype. We see cars stopping on the street to avoid hitting the turkeys in repeat fashion. At one point, a driver whips out his cameraphone to record the birds stopped at a standstill in the middle of residential street. And yes, he waits until it’s safe to pass them.

  • The Turkeys of Atwood Ave plays in four separate locations throughout the Central Wisconsin Film Festival, beginning this Thurs at the Central Rivers Farmshed in Stevens Point. It also screens the following day at the New Visions Gallery in Marshfield, Sat at Adventure 212 Bistro in Stevens Point and then again on Fri Nov 13 at the Letti W. Jensen Center in Amherst.  Complete information can be found at