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Hoffman shares tales of a ‘Survivor’

Holly Hoffman speaks at the start of the King Turkey day parade Saturday in Worthington. (Brian Korthals/Daily Globe)

WORTHINGTON — With a “Survivor” theme, King Turkey Day promised all festival goers the opportunity to “Outfun, Outlaugh and Outrun” during the celebratory weekend.

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Unfortunately, Worthington’s racing turkey Paycheck couldn’t deliver on the “outrun” portion, but there was still plenty of laughter and fun.

Featured speaker Holly Hoffman of Eureka, S.D., who came in fourth place in Season 24 of the “Survivor” reality TV show, recounted how she took a chance by applying for the show and changed her life in the process.

Her presentation began with the haunting strains of the “Survivor” theme song.

“Why would someone want to apply to be on a reality show where they literally drop you off in the middle of nowhere with just the clothes on their back?” she queried over the dramatic music, wearing the exact apparel she wore for 39 days in the jungle of Nicaragua. “… I decided I wanted a challenge and adventure in my life. I wanted to step outside my comfort zone.”

Hoffman recalled how she almost didn’t mail her application and audition tape.

“They’re not going to pick me,” she recalled thinking. “They’re not even going to look at my application.”

Hoffman’s husband, Charlie, who was standing in the Turkey Day audience Saturday, pushed her to give it a try, saying, “If you don’t try, you’ll never know.”

Eight weeks later, Hoffman had a message on her phone from a CBS casting director.

“I deleted it,” she said, drawing a laugh from the crowd. “I thought it was a joke. Two days later, he called again, and I still didn’t believe him. … He told me I was in the top 800 of the applicants. I was very satisfied with being in the top 800, because they had over 100,000 applicants for season 24, and they were only going to choose 20 people.

“Never let the odds keep you from doing something you want to do,” Hoffman continued. “… In life, all it takes is trying, and if I hadn’t put that application and audition tape in the mail, I wouldn’t be standing here in front of you today.”

Just five days into her “Survivor” experience, Hoffman felt defeated by the drastic conditions and considered throwing in the towel. After a talk with fellow contestant Jimmy Johnson, she found the strength to continue on and was the last woman left in the competition.

“Life is about seizing opportunities, and it’s amazing how it will open up doors you never thought possible,” Hoffman said. “Each of you out here is a survivor in your own way. … In life, we don’t know what tomorrow will bring. … In this way, we are all survivors.”

At one point in her presentation, Hoffman talked about how it rained incessantly in Nicaragua, and as if on cue, a few sprinkles fell on downtown Worthington.

“It did freak me out a bit when you started talking about rain, and it started raining,” later commented announcer Chad Cummings.

Hoffman concluded her speech with the idea that the community of Worthington is a survivor, and King Turkey Day has survived for 74 years.

She also got out her torch, which was snuffed out when her stint on “Survivor” was concluded. Hoffman had to bid for it on eBay, but was determined to get it, no matter the cost, which she later revealed was $1,500.

“You know what the best part is about today?” she asked the crowd. “We’re all going to survive Turkey Days!”

Beth Rickers

Beth Rickers is the veteran in the newspaper staff with 25 years as the Daily Globe's Features Editor. Interests include cooking, traveling and beer tasting and making with her home-brewing husband, Bryan. She writes an Area Voices blog called Lagniappe, which is a Creole term that means "a little something extra." It can be found at  

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