In order to serve more turkey to the good people of Johnson Creek, Wisconsin, Clarence Hartwig of Hartwig Turkey Farms opened a supper and dance club in 1969 with a rather unusual theme. It was called the Gobbler. It featured a turkey-centric dinner menu and allowed patrons to dance in the “Roost,” a circular dance floor suspended from the ceiling over a rotating bar. While it’s lost the turkey theme, the Gobbler is, to this day, a beacon of nightlife in Johnson Creek, and, yes, the original bar is still spinning.
Hartwig hired Estonian-born architect Helmut Ajango, a master of prairie architecture, to design the building. As per Hartwig’s request, the rounded, low-laying building’s windows are designed to look like eyes of a turkey. For the day’s youth, this futuristic, kitsch superstructure was a town fixture. “All we talked about was going to the Gobbler when we turned 18,” Connie Brunk told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in 2017. When supper clubs lost their allure in the early ’90s, however, the Gobbler shuttered exactly as it had looked in 1969, with pink and lavender accents across its shag carpet walls and psychedelic chrome-foil wallpaper. The building sat vacant for over 20 years.
When out shopping with his wife in 2004, Daniel Manesis noticed the Gobbler’s for-sale sign. He bought the building, and after a $2.7-million renovation, reopened it as the Gobbler Theater. The rotating bar, retaining its original pink and lavender chairs, makes a full rotation every 80 minutes. The medium-sized theater in the round now features primarily country rock acts, attracting Johnson Creek residents of all ages, once more, to a night out at the Gobbler.
If you’re at the bar and your back is to the stage, be patient. You’ll have a better view shortly.