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Tasty, tantalizing turkey to tempt the tastebuds

WORTHINGTON -- While most people equate turkey with Thanksgiving, Worthington's King Turkey Day celebration does a pretty good job of boosting the amount of tryptophan (the amino acid with sleep-inducing qualities) in our diets this week.

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Between the cheesy turkey sandwiches served at Monday night's KTD Mixer at Pioneer Village, and the Elks Lodge Turkey Smorgasbord Saturday evening, and all of the other opportunities for turkey legs, turkey sandwiches and turkey tenders, KTD festival-goers are expected to consume more than 800 pounds of turkey by the end of this weekend.

It all began Monday, when Hy-Vee prepared nearly 70 pounds of turkey for cheesy turkey sandwiches served at the KTD Mixer.

Turkey legs, turkey tenders

Starting today, a couple of vendors -- KC Barbecue owner Randy Traylor of Worthington and Flip's Concession owner Charles Wilson of Iowa -- will begin serving up turkey legs at the Nobles County Fairgrounds. Wilson will also have turkey tenders available.

Traylor, in his second year of serving smoked turkey legs, anticipates he'll sell about 150 pounds of turkey this weekend. Each turkey leg weighs between 1 and 1¼ pounds.

"Last year was my first year, and they went over great," said Traylor, adding that the meat is tender and flavorful.

"I like 'em cause it's turkey legs for one -- it's a lean meat, it's healthy," he added. The turkey legs are prepared without barbecue sauce, but people are welcome to add the sauce if they want.

Traylor said he's been doing barbecue ever since he "could stand up and see over the grill."

Turkey sandwiches

The First United Methodist Church will again be serving up turkey sandwiches from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at the church. According to Rick Dalrymple, the fundraiser began as a project of the church's youth group more than 15 years ago.

After the youth group became too small to handle the event, the Methodist Men's Group got involved.

"The men did it by themselves for a couple of years and then we brought in the women's (Night Light) circle," Dalrymple said.

On Saturday, approximately 30 people will be involved in preparing and serving turkey sandwiches, along with chips, a bar and drink for the public.

"We have 170 pounds of turkey breasts -- we get 21 turkey breasts, about 8 to 9 pounds each," Dalrymple detailed. The meat is prepared in roasters, sliced and served on buns made by Panaderia Mi Tierra bakery in downtown Worthington.

Records are kept from year to year and the order may fluctuate depending on whether they have too many leftovers or not enough. Dalrymple said that in the past, the leftovers have been served to church members following the Sunday service.

Last year, for the first time, the group opened up in the evening on special request to serve turkey sandwiches to the marching band students who came from Aberdeen, S.D.

All of the profits earned from the fundraiser are used for local mission projects, Dalrymple said, adding that money is given to the food shelves, to Love Inc., and to support the backpack program conducted through the Manna Food Pantry.

Teaser Turkey

Of the 40 contestants competing in the third annual Kansas City Barbecue Society (KCBS) Smokin' Gobbler Cook-off, an estimated 15 are expected to prepare turkey -- it is a non-sanctioned food in the contest.

"Some of these cooks are vying for national points and if they did an extra category, it would be a distraction," said Brad Behrends, one of the organizers of the local event. "That's part of the reason why we don't get a very good response to it."

Behrends said each barbecuer will get about two to three pounds of turkey breast to prepare. It will be the first meat judged on Saturday, beginning at 11:30 a.m. The judging event is not open to the public.

Unlike the other meats being prepared by the barbecuers -- chicken, pork ribs, pork shoulder (pulled pork) and beef brisket -- there are no stringent guidelines for preparing the turkey meat. Behrends said last year, one of the contestants submitted cheesy turkey sandwiches.

Due to health code requirements in Minnesota, barbecue contestants will not be allowed to sell the food they prepare for the cook-off. As such, the sight and smell of smoked turkey coming from their barbecues is essentially a crowd teaser.

Still, that shouldn't keep people from stopping by to chat with the competitors -- 10 of which are actually from within an hour's drive of Worthington. Scott Belz, Dave Dale and Kevin Feit are all competitors with local ties, with other teams coming from Luverne, Marshall, Fairmont, Sibley, Iowa and Ocheyedan, Iowa.

Turkey and the trimmings

Worthington's Elks Lodge has a long-standing tradition of serving up a savory turkey smorgasbord after the King Turkey Day parade on Saturday.

Francis Meier, who co-chairs the Elks committee for Turkey Day with Barbara Uphoff, said the lodge typically serves 500 to 600 people during their event.

In preparation for the smorgasbord, Meier said 16 turkeys are purchased -- all about 22 to 24 pounds -- and then baked and sliced. Just because some people prefer dark to white meat, Meier said they also purchase about 30 pounds of turkey thigh meat.

The turkey is served with dressing, potatoes, corn, a variety of salads, brownie and ice cream -- and for those who don't like turkey (gasp!), barbecued meatballs are also on the menu.

The Elks Lodge Smorgasbord begins serving at 4:30 p.m. and continues until gone or the crowd dwindles, usually until 7:30 or 8 p.m., Meier said.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at

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