Turkey Days blasts into Pelican Rapids
PELICAN RAPIDS, Minn. - Turkey Days has come a long way in its 40-year history. What began as a promotional barbecue for the area's turkey industry in the 1960s has evolved into a two-day festival filled with games, parades, dances and plenty of ...
PELICAN RAPIDS, Minn. - Turkey Days has come a long way in its 40-year history.
What began as a promotional barbecue for the area's turkey industry in the 1960s has evolved into a two-day festival filled with games, parades, dances and plenty of turkey.
Ben Woessner, a 31-year Pelican Rapids resident and insurance agent, said the event blossomed from a barbecue to a festival in 1983 after the city celebrated its centennial.
"The centennial bash was kind of successful," said Woessner, who vividly remembers his first trip to the event in the mid-1960s. "Everything was in place, so the chamber of commerce decided this was the thing to do."
But the staple attraction of the festival - turkey - hasn't changed since the '60s. Crews will prepare 75 to 90 birds for today's barbecue, Woessner said. They'll begin cooking the turkeys at 4 a.m. in long pits for the 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. feed.
"We have people that come from the metropolitan areas and plan their vacations around this event," Woessner said. "The more the merrier."
In a tradition started by the International Rotary Club, which still sponsors Turkey Days, any proceeds from the barbecue go back into the community.
Woessner said funds from the barbecue have helped build bridges, parking lots and park shelters.
"It's been a tradition over the years," he said said.
Turkey Days began Friday with the popular farmer's market followed by a Splash for Cash, where kids fished for as much coin as they could find at the bottom of a pool.
Jane Aschnewitz, a Pelican Rapids Chamber of Commerce director, said the festival began with a bang, but tapered during the afternoon because of balmy conditions.
"This morning was real, real busy," she said.
But the heart of Turkey Days is today, Aschnewitz said, with the kiddy parade at 11 a.m., the grand parade at 2 p.m. and turkey races at 6 p.m.
"There should be about 100 units" in the parade, including Shriners, politicians, beauty pageant winners and horse and carriages, Aschnewitz said.
Turkeys racing will have to be more than fleet of foot this year because they'll be competing in a 100-foot triathlon. They'll start in a wheel barrel, then fly - encouraged to anyway, Aschnewitz said - and finally sprint to the finish.
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