Woman wins 'American Pickers' contest
PAXTON — When Robin McNish goes “picking” with “American Pickers” star Frank Fritz later this year, she would like to hit up the back roads of East Central Illinois and perhaps sift through Ray Leisure’s massive antiques collection in Gibson City.
Fritz and co-star Mike Wolfe already know about this area — Leisure was featured on their popular History Channel show last summer — but McNish wouldn’t mind showing Fritz the area’s offerings one more time to put it back on the map.
Leisure wouldn’t mind one bit either.
“I told them they can come back anytime,” Leisure said. “I always said, they just scratched the surface (of my collection). There’s plenty.”
However, McNish, a Paxton and Rantoul resident who owns two antiques shops in the Ford County seat, is remaining realistic. So, she expects to be picking with Fritz closer to the Illinois-Iowa border when she redeems her prize as the winner of the “Pick with Frank Fritz” contest.
A native of Iowa, Fritz owns an antiques shop called Frank Fritz Finds in Savanna, Ill., about 220 miles from Paxton, and that’s where McNish is expected to go, hopefully as soon as spring arrives, to meet Fritz and join him on a one-day picking adventure.
“I’m going to be looking for cupboards and tables and quilts and old toys — anything unique and unusual,” McNish said. “But I think I’m going to have some competition with Frank, because he likes the toys, too.
“But I don’t know that we’re going to have a bidding war. I don’t think I’m going to do that to him, and I doubt that I can offer more than what he does anyway, to be honest with you.”
McNish was notified the day before Thanksgiving last year that she had won a contest via Facebook — and an all-expenses-paid trip to spend a day searching for hidden treasures with Fritz.
“I screamed like a little girl, I was just so excited,” recalled McNish, who has been a fan of Fritz, known on “American Pickers” as the “bearded charmer,” ever since the show premiered in January 2010.
McNish gets to take a friend or family member along for the trip. Her first choice, her grandson, declined the offer, leaving her with a tough choice to make.
“Friends and family members, they all want to go, but I can’t take everybody,” McNish said. “So I might just go solo.”
One option she is considering is having a worker at her Paxton antique shops follow her and Fritz in a truck and trailer so she has a way to load whatever antiques she buys and take them back to Paxton. McNish said she plans to take the necessary tools of “picking” with her — a flashlight, boots and a helmet.
The 60-year-old McNish has been collecting antiques since age 12, when she went to her first auction and bought a Wicker desk and vanity stool. By 18, she’d already opened an antiques shop in Rantoul.
“I thought, ‘If I could make a living doing what I really like to do, I’d be so happy,’” McNish said. “I enjoy meeting people and learning — learning history through antiques. Unique individual pieces really trip my trigger. I just love finding something I’ve never seen before.”