King Turkey Day is here
Story by Beth Rickers
WORTHINGTON -- As dawn breaks on another King Turkey Day celebration, a few questions wait to be answered:
Will Holly Hoffman "survive" her stint as the featured speaker?
Who will cross the finish line first in the Turkey Day 10K?
Can the 60 percent chance of NO precipitation trump the 40 percent chance of rain in the forecast?
Does the YMCA have enough T-shirts ordered for all the walkers anticipated to participate in this morning's 5K Family Fun Walk?
And the BIGGEST question of the day ...
Is Paycheck fleet-footed enough to win today's heat of the Great Gobbler Gallop and get a leg up on returning the Traveling Trophy of Tumultuous Triumph to Worthington?
All those questions, and more, will be answered during this installment of King Turkey Day -- the 74th in a storied history.
The festival dates back to 1939, when Worthington was a center of turkey production. Huge flocks of birds were raised on farms around the community, and they were processed in two plants: E.O. Olson's Worthmore Creamery & Producer and J.C. Boote's Hatchery and Produce. During a trip to Texas, Olson witnessed a community festival that celebrated the turkey, and he brought the idea back to Worthington. An autumn celebration was organized, featuring a free pancake feast and a parade.
The quirkiness of the celebration caught the attention of both the national media and politicians, who jumped at the chance to address the crowds that showed up for King Turkey Day.
Eventually, turkey production dwindled in the area, but -- except for a hiatus during World War Ii -- Worthington continued to celebrate the bird that helped the region recover from the Great Depression.
In 1972, word of another community's claim to the "Turkey Capital of the World" title -- the same Texas community from which Olson had borrowed the idea -- made its way to Worthington. A challenge was issued to the town of Cuero, Texas, for a turkey race to decide which community, north or south, could claim for the coming year the turkey title. One heat would take place in Worthington during King Turkey Day, and a second in Cuero during its October Turkeyfest, with the combined times determining the contest's winner.
Today's contest is the 41st matchup between Worthington's bird, named Paycheck because he goes so fast, and Cuero's Ruby Begonia. Each bird is trained by a team of four human handlers, who share in the gobbler's glory or disgrace, depending on the outcome of the race.
To the winner goes the Traveling Trophy of Tumultuous Triumph, while the slower fowl goes home with the Circulating Consolation Trophy of Consummate Commiseration. So far, Paycheck has been victorious 23 times; Ruby Begonia lags behind with 17 wins.
The first heat of the Great Gobbler Gallop will get under way today at approximately 1:30 p.m.
Here are some of the major happenings in today's schedule of events:
8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Smokin' Gobbler Cook-Off, Nobles County Fairgrounds
9 a.m., YMCA 5K Family Fun Walk, downtown
9 a.m. to noon, free pancake breakfast, fire station on Second Avenue
9 a.m. to noon and 3:30 to 8 p.m., Turkey Day Vendor Expo, fairgrounds
10:30 a.m., Turkey Day 10K, 10th Street
1 p.m., featured speaker Holly Hoffman
1:30 p.m., Great Gobbler Gallop
1 p.m. Grand Parade, 10th Street
5 p.m., pig race shows and games, fairgrounds
5 p.m., Smokin Gobbler Cook-Off Awards Ceremony
8 p.m., Hairball (doors open at 6:30 p.m.), Worthington Arena, fairgrounds