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70-year-old King Turkey Day float holds many secrets

This year, the shiny red-and-gold parade float with the giant turkey strutting on the front end and the King Turkey Day Board of Directors waving to the crowd on the other end turns 70 years old.

The vintage King Turkey Day float that winds up the annual parade seems to have been built in 1952.
The vintage King Turkey Day float that winds up the annual parade seems to have been built in 1952.
The Globe
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WORTHINGTON — The hallowed Great Gobbler Gallop is a 50-year institution for Turkeytown USA, better known as Worthington, but an older King Turkey Day tradition has been hiding in plain sight even longer than that — the vintage float that has in recent years served as the ultimate entry in the celebrated KTD parade.

KING TURKEY DAY
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This year, the shiny red-and-gold parade float with the giant turkey strutting on the front end and the King Turkey Day Board of Directors waving to the crowd on the other turns 70 years old.

“All of this year’s King Turkey floats are being constructed locally, insuring originality and added color to the parade,” a Globe photo caption from 1952 boasts. “Floats are under construction at a local warehouse under the direction of Herman N. Smith, representative of Vaughn Displays, Minneapolis… Helping Smith are Jack Roberts and Harold Ferguson, Worthington.”

It seems unlikely that Smith could have known his creation would last 70 years.

“Every year we try to clean it, patch any holes, do any repairs that are possible,” said Susanne Murphy, president of the KTD Board of Directors. “We’ve always kept the original structure.”

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The float is at least partially made of papier-mache, so it cannot be allowed out in the rain, and it cannot be washed either. After years of parades, sometimes its shine needs to be touched up a bit with a dash of Armor All.

It holds a lot of weight, and every year, the race team prepares the float, and then it gets inspected to ensure it’s safe for the riders.

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Beth Rickers, who served as president in 1997, recalls putting new carpet and mylar decorations on the float that year, but she wasn’t sure if it had ever been completely pulled apart and put back together again.

At 70 years old, the float still holds many secrets.

“One time we were taking it apart to fix it, and we found some weed,” Murphy recalled.

In between parades, the float rests at the Nobles County Fairgrounds, in a building that is open to the public during the fair, so almost anyone could have hidden the marijuana in it. Was someone trying to frame Paycheck, or distract Ruby Begonia with an unusual scent? In all likelihood, no one will ever know.

For the past couple of decades, Rich Pedersen has pulled the vintage float in its signature parade, with the KTD board waiting to climb aboard at the last minute, given the many responsibilities they have on the big day.

“It’s an honor to be on it, and to see so many happy people, to see the community all gathered together,” Murphy said.

A 1999 graduate of Jackson County Central and a 2003 graduate of Augsburg College, Kari Lucin started writing for newspapers in Minnesota and North Dakota in 2006. During her time as a reporter, she covered beats including education, watershed, county and agriculture, and frequently wrote about health and science. She has also served as an online content coordinator and an engagement specialist at various Forum Communications properties. She was a marketing assistant at Iowa Lakes Community College in Estherville for two years, where she did design work in addition to writing and social media management.

Lucin is currently a community editor with the Globe of Worthington.

Email: klucin@dglobe.com
Phone: (507) 376-7319
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