King Turkey Day plans puzzle tourney, Donkey Basketball fundraisers in Worthington

Ready, aim and hold steady
Jeremiah LeTourneau, playing on the Worthington High School staff team, eyes the hoop before taking a shot in the King Turkey Day Donkey Basketball fundraiser game several years ago at WHS.
Tim Middagh/The Globe

WORTHINGTON — Every year, Worthington’s King Turkey Day celebration draws thousands of people to the downtown area. They enjoy one of the area’s largest parades, visit the variety of food vendors, perhaps race in the KTD 10K or do the 5K run/walk, enjoy free pancakes and partake in new and returning events.

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All of that takes money, and the King Turkey Day Board of Directors has two fundraising activities planned this month to help them reach their goal.

Spots for approximately 15 four-person teams remain for the KTD Puzzle Tournament March 19, at the Elks Lodge in Worthington. With room for 30 teams in all, the contest will boast a 1,000-piece colorful puzzle that teams will have four hours to complete. Prizes will be awarded to the top finishers, and random door prizes will also be handed out, according to Susanne Murphy, KTD board member and coach of the Paycheck race team.

“We’re going to start with a bake sale,” Murphy said, noting that doors to the Elks Lodge will open at noon for the sale. Team check-in begins at 12:30 p.m., with the puzzle tournament to begin promptly at 1 p.m. and go until 4 p.m. Any teams who haven’t finished their puzzle by then will be able to stay and finish if they choose. Each team will get to keep their puzzle.

Individuals are asked to register their team at Forward Worthington or online at Those who don’t have a team are asked to register to be paired with other individual registrants.


Murphy and fellow turkey racing teammates will compete as Paycheck’s Puzzle Pals, and she encourages people to come up with their own team name.

Donkey Basketball returns

Following a disappointing cancellation due to a winter storm a year ago, Donkey Basketball plans a return to the Worthington High School gymnasium on March 29 for a laugh-out-loud show.

With a combination of donkeys, basketballs and locals who may be attempting to ride a donkey for the first time, you might even expect to laugh until you cry.

“It is so much fun,” Murphy said. “If anyone has never seen it, they’ve got to come.”

Those who have watched people try to play basketball while riding a rubber boot-wearing donkey know what to expect, and have probably already bought their tickets.

Attempted pass
Austin Smith from the school staff team receives a pass under the hoop in a matchup with WHS seniors in this Globe file photo.
Tim Middagh/The Globe

Doors open for the night of hilarity at 6 p.m., with the games to begin at 7. The first 400 people in line will get a free meal of pork sandwiches, chips, a cookie, ice cream bar and water.

The four teams competing for the win — and bragging rights — have already been determined. They include a group of local young professionals versus staff from Southwest Minnesota Opportunity Council’s Head Start program; and ISD 518 students versus ISD 518 staff. The winners in each of those contests will face off in a championship game.

Preceding the championship, riders will be given a break so that the donkeys can offer free rides to children in attendance.


“This is a greatly-anticipated, held-over event,” Murphy said. “The donkeys are funnier than ever.”

The donkeys hail from Dairyland Donkeys, a farm near Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, and bear such names as Exlax, Rigor Mortis, Earthquake, Hip Killer, Hemorrhoid, Widowmaker and Super Stupid.

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“Everybody wants to ride Super Stupid,” Murphy said with a laugh.

The three games are each timed, and riders have to be sitting atop a donkey when they attempt to shoot a basket or pass the ball to a teammate. The basketballs are smaller than regulation size, Murphy added.

Donkey riders have the option of wearing knee and elbow pads, while helmets are required — and provided.

Though Murphy and fellow King Turkey Day race team members won’t be riding a donkey, her first and only experience in donkey basketball was memorable enough to last a lifetime.

“They’ll be running down the floor and stop on a dime — and I didn’t,” she shared with a laugh. “Other times they won’t move at all. …It was kind of embarrassing.”

Murphy, who will be scooping donkey poop during the games, said Donkey Basketball appeals to people of all ages, and she’s hoping to fill the gym with cheering crowds.


The donkeys are multi-talented as well, she said, noting that during the summer months, they perform in Donkey Softball.

“We couldn’t find any place that would allow us to use their (ball diamond) in the summer,” Murphy added.

Tickets for Donkey Basketball, to begin at 7 p.m. March 29, are available in advance at Forward Worthington, The Stag, from any KTD board member, and online at Tickets will also be available for purchase at the door for a higher fee. Children preschool and younger get free admission.

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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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