Huge event planned to welcome Frank Fritz to Paxton

PAXTON — Paxton antique dealer Robin McNish and “American Pickers” co-star Frank Fritz will hunt for “rusty gold” on Saturday at two undisclosed properties north of Paxton. With barns and sheds full of vintage signs, gas pumps and “boxes and boxes of old antique stuff,” McNish said she is sure that Fritz will enjoy this “pick.”

Surely, “American Pickers” co-star Mike Wolfe would, too.

Sorry, Mike.

“It’s Frank and Robin now,” McNish said with a grin.

McNish has been smiling a lot lately as she anxiously awaits Fritz’s arrival in the Ford County seat. As the winner of the Pick with Frank Fritz Contest, McNish will get the chance to work alongside Fritz in searching for hidden treasure Saturday, using Fritz’s keen eye and expertise in spotting vintage finds.

McNish hand-picked the two properties they will spend three hours “picking.” The two properties, located in Ford County, are owned by the same person and contain buildings full of antiques. But that’s all McNish will disclose.

McNish hasn’t just been working to set up the antique hunt; she’s also been busy trying to organize a big community celebration to welcome Fritz to Paxton. It’s being promoted as Workshop Hero Day. Fritz is a celebrity spokesman for Workshop Hero, which sponsored the contest McNish won.

It’s going to be a Frank Fritz love-fest, so to speak.

A big welcome to Paxton
If all goes as planned, Fritz and McNish will arrive back in Paxton at 11 a.m. — accompanied by a firetruck escort. A marching band will be playing a song to welcome Fritz as he steps off.

Fritz will then walk to a stage set up near McNish’s four antique shops downtown, where Mayor Bill Ingold will present Fritz with a “key to the city” and a special gift the mayor is making for him. At that time, Fritz will also receive an undisclosed gift from McNish — one that has been undergoing a restoration for several months.

Fritz will then have a question-and-answer session with fans until 12:30 p.m. After that, there will be a vintage car, truck and motorcycle show; a live band, New Riders of the Golden Maize, performing; and food vendors selling everything from burgers and bratwurst to pulled pork, cotton candy, kettle corn and lemon shakeups.

At 12:30, Fritz will be treated to a private lunch with McNish at the Tin Pan restaurant. A special gluten-free menu for Fritz is being created by Tin Pan owner Terra Hendrix.

After lunch, Fritz will be signing autographs from 2 to 3:30 p.m. under a tent set up outside Country Crossroads and Robin’s Homespun Dreams Antiques & Things — two antique stores that McNish owns in the 200 block of South Market Street.

Fritz will also sign copies of his newly released book, “How to Pick Vintage Motorcycles,” and answer questions on the benefits of rust removal using Workshop Hero’s Metal Rescue Rust Remover Bath and Dry Coat product. Priority for autographs will be given to those who buy the book, which will be available for purchase at Robin’s Homespun Dreams Antiques & Things.

At some point in the day, Fritz will also tour McNish’s antique shops, which are in the process of being readied for his visit.

McNish expects as few as 2,000 to as many as 5,000 people to show up in Paxton for the festivities.

“This is truly a dream come true, not only for myself and my business but for the City of Paxton, as well. I can’t wait to see what picking with Frank does for our area,” McNish said.

Hoping for a long stay
McNish isn’t sure if Fritz will stay in Paxton longer than 3:30, when the celebration is scheduled to end. She said she and others are trying to keep him in town longer, if possible, by providing some incentives.

“Shooky’s (bar) has hired a band, and (owner Mike Shook) is wanting to know Frank’s favorite beers,” McNish said. “I told the Workshop Hero guy, and he says, ‘Is this something you want Frank to do?’ And I said, ‘Yeah!’ I want Frank to visit Paxton; I want him to get to know Paxton.

“I also talked to Royce (Baier) about bringing an antique convertible up here to escort him around and take him to the car museum (inside the State Street Mall). But the (Workshop Hero co-owner) said Frank may not have time for that. So we’ll see.”

McNish is trying to make Fritz’s visit as comfortable as possible. So, she has acquired a 1970s Air Stream RV for Fritz to use for breaks between autograph sessions. It’s parked immediately south of Country Crossroads.

McNish said the RV might also be useful for Fritz’s girlfriend and step-father, who plan to join Fritz in Paxton.

“Now they have a place to go sit down and relax,” McNish said. “There’s a microwave, bathroom, an air conditioner, heater, sinks and beds.”

Besides the gifts she will give Fritz, McNish also has an additional surprise in store for one of her favorite television personalities.

“I’m getting Frank’s room ready for him,” McNish said, referring to a former kitchen area inside Country Crossroads that she hopes can be used as a secondary shop for Fritz’s Savanna-based antique business, Frank Fritz Finds.

“I am going to make him an offer he can’t refuse.”

‘Rusty gold’ abounds
Workshop Hero gave McNish the chance to choose where she and Fritz go “picking,” and McNish explored several possibilities before deciding on the sites north of Paxton.

One possibility brought to McNish’s attention was a man’s property in Gibson City — and it wasn’t Ray Leisure’s property, which has already been featured on “American Pickers.”

“He has a bedroom full of nothing but Elvis stuff, and Frank loves Elvis,” McNish said. “And there was another bedroom full of nothing but antique wind-up toy iron cars and stuff that Frank would like. But that was it.

“We wanted barns and garages and sheds.”

McNish eventually found the properties near Paxton and discovered the perfect “pick.”

“I took 160 pictures (to show to Workshop Hero representatives),” McNish said. “First, we went into the garage. There were a couple of old gas pumps, big signs, boxes and boxes of old antique stuff that I know Frank would like — this rusty gold stuff. A lot of it is too clean and too taken-care-of, but ...

“Then I saw another building (on the property), and outside the building was a whole bunch of stuff. Then we went inside, and there was a whole bunch of stuff. He also had trailers full of stuff that we didn’t even get to see.

“Then we went down to the other property, about a mile away, maybe. There are six buildings. He only took us in to four of them.”

McNish said she is interested in buying some of the items she saw. She hopes to get a good deal on Sept. 27.

“I even asked him, ‘How much would you be asking for this if we were to buy that?’ He gave me a couple prices on some things. But I think Frank will get him to bundle,” McNish said.

More vendors sought
Vendors and others wanting to participate in the festivities in Paxton on Sept. 27 are asked to call McNish at 217-579-1017.

“I’m not charging anybody to set up here,” she noted.

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