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King Turkey Day buttons celebrate 50 years of turkey racing

Buttons now available for purchase.

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WORTHINGTON — Every year there’s something special about the King Turkey Day buttons that are sold to help raise funds for the festival.

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From designs painted by wildlife artists to cartoon sketches and locally-produced artwork, the buttons notoriously feature a turkey in some fashion.

This year is no exception.

What is unique about this year is that the annual turkey race between Worthington’s racing turkey, Paycheck, and Cuero, Texas’ Ruby Begonia is celebrating its 50th anniversary.

And the 2022 button reflects it.

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“It was kind of a spinoff of Walt Disney’s 50th design,” shared KTD president Susanne Murphy of the “0” in 50, which has turkey tail feathers at the top instead of the Mickey Mouse ears. “We thought if they can make a mouse, why can’t we make a turkey?”

An artist from Texas designed the button for Cuero, and for the first time ever, Worthington used Cuero’s design, changing out their logo at the top, as well as the primary color of the button. Cuero’s button is black and gold, and Worthington’s is red and gold, with the gold signifying the 50th anniversary.

“We want to showcase the 50th anniversary of turkey racing, but also showcase our camaraderie,” Murphy shared. “It’s Trojan Pride with the red and black colors. We have a black shirt with a red button.”

Fitting, considering the Worthington High School Marching Band will travel to Cuero in October to march in the Cuero TurkeyFest parade.

With every member of the band getting a KTD button this year, Murphy said there is a limited supply available for purchase. She advises people to buy their buttons early.

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“The purchase of a button is $5 and you get a fantastic coupon sheet with 24 tear-away coupons,” she said. “The buttons have a unique history. Every year there’s been a special button, and only one year there was a cloth patch because all of the metal was being used for ammunition in World War II.”

King Turkey Day buttons are available for purchase at the Worthington Chamber of Commerce, The Stag (home of Paycheck’s Treasure Chest), and many of the participating sponsors that are on the coupon sheet.

In addition to helping raise funds for King Turkey Day, wearing a 2022 KTD button offers free admittance to the King Turkey Day Mixer and meal, which has a new location this year in the downtown pavilion at the corner of 10th Street and Second Avenue.

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Each button is numbered, and in the week leading up to Turkey Day, the committee will randomly draw 50 numbers and give away 50 frozen turkeys. The numbers will be announced in The Globe, the local radio station, and on King Turkey Day, Inc. official social media pages. Those with winning buttons will then stop at the Chamber office for a certificate to get their turkey at either Fareway or Hy-Vee.

The 83rd King Turkey Day will be celebrated Sept. 17 in downtown Worthington. In addition to the buttons, people are encouraged to shop Paycheck’s Treasure Chest for a variety of items, including T-shirts, sweatshirts, caps, koozies, Yetis, keychains, bottle openers, money clips, chargers and other items.

Murphy suggests visiting the Chamber office also, where people can view a collection of every King Turkey Day button in the festival’s history.

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Bringing past race teams together as part of the 50th anniversary of the turkey race, King Turkey Day, Inc. is also organizing a racing reunion of sorts.

All past race team members are invited to take part in a ceremonial race down 10th Street on Turkey Day, with multiple turkeys being brought in for the special event.

“We’re going to have a chase about a block long for memory’s sake,” Murphy shared.

About 120 letters have been mailed out to past race team members inviting them to participate. Thus far, Murphy said they’ve heard from 15 to 20 who are willing to participate. Any former race team member is urged to call the Chamber at 372-2919 or Murphy at 360-6699 if interested in participating.

The former race teams will also come together from 3 to 6 p.m. Sept. 16 for Beers and Cheers at the Nobles County Historical Society.

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“We’re ramping up and it’s going to be an awfully exciting year,” Murphy added.

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Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
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