Big words for big birds on KTD
WORTHINGTON -- The Great Gobbler Gallop is a contest between two turkeys -- Paycheck from Worthington and Ruby Begonia from Cuero, Texas -- but for the human members of the race teams, it may be more about the running of the mouths.
Both the Minnesota and Texas teams are confident their bird will cross the finish line first in Saturday's first heat of the Gallop and ensure their respective community has bragging rights for the coming year as the Turkey Capital of the World.
The Worthington Turkey Race Team is under the leadership of Coach Vida Iten and Captain Diane Schettler; handlers are Jesse Teerink and Mike Fury. Their Texas counterparts are Coach Greg Nemec, Captain Bobby Phillips, and handlers Linda Nemec and Amy Crain.
The Nemecs will make history as the first husband-wife team to represent their community in the Great Gobbler Gallop. Greg boasted that all the women on his team -- including Ruby Begonia -- are in fine racing shape.
"She ran very fast in our trials and was very impressive," Greg said about the racing bird. "She did not need a lot of coercion to get down the track. We figured she was our best shot for coming up there and dealing out some misery. Our other two ladies are also very fast; they've been working out all the time, and that got passed along to the bird. Me and Bobby are just there for the manly support they need, in case the bird gets out of hand. I think we're going to put on a pretty good show up there.
"I don't want to brag too much, but I think there's going to be wailing and gnashing of the teeth when we get done up there."
A former football coach and currently an ag-science teacher at Cuero High School, Greg hinted that he might have a trick or two in his playbook, as well as a special rapport with racing fowl.
"I'm almost like a turkey whisperer," he said.
With rampant drought and soaring temperatures plaguing Texas, the Cuero team is looking forward to the cooler climes of Minnesota. Nemec doesn't expect the weather to be a factor in the race.
"Our bird is more used to cold weather than everybody's giving her credit for," he said, hinting that maybe Ruby had spent some time in an acclimation chamber of some sort. "Our question is whether Paycheck is going to be able to handle the Texas heat in the second race."
As far as Paycheck's training regimen, Schettler gave credit to the turkey's caretaker, Brian "BA" Almberg, and special trainer, Kaden Wendling, for overseeing the conditioning program, particularly keeping tempting foods such as French fries out of his diet.
"BA works side by side with Kaden, and they make sure Paycheck stays in good condition," said Schettler. "They also work hard to keep our strategy a secret. Paycheck is ready, and we'll be there with her when he crosses the finish line."
While there's a lot of big talk from both sides, the turkey racers stress that there's more to the Great Gobbler Gallop than winning or losing a race.
"The whole weekend is just a lot of fun," Schettler said. "It's not about how long it takes to get across the finish line. It's about the friendships we have with the Texans, getting to see them again and then going down there in October to see the rest of the crowd."
The first heat of the Great Gobbler Gallop is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Saturday on 10th Street. The second heat will take place on Oct. 8 during Cuero's Turkeyfest.