Marcus Larson/News-Register file photo##During Turkey Rama last year, Glori Redfern-Sayler, booth operator Jill Gailey and Patty Pemberton discuss the techniques and recycled materials used to make jewelry. This year’s festival opens Thursday afternoon.
Marcus Larson/News-Register file photo##During Turkey Rama last year, Glori Redfern-Sayler, booth operator Jill Gailey and Patty Pemberton discuss the techniques and recycled materials used to make jewelry. This year’s festival opens Thursday afternoon.
By David Bates • Staff Writer • 

Turkey Rama: Not fancy, just fun

The International Pinot Noir Celebration is probably McMinnville’s toniest event. It is designed to draw well-heeled visitors from afar for a refined, strictly-for-adults experience.

Turkey Rama’s mission is simply to let locals of all interests and ages let their hair down, kids in tow.

It’s a come-one, come-all event designed to offer barrels of old-fashioned fun. It has no pretensions of anything grander.

The citywide celebration is slated to kick off Thursday afternoon in downtown McMinnville and unfold at several locations around town, including Wortman Park.

The festival’s signature element is a massive turkey barbecue. Billed as the world’s largest, it will be staged at Wortman’s east end Saturday afternoon.

Official weather forecasts hint the recent spell of hot weather may subside Thursday, when the festivities kick into gear with the Farmers Market and Brown Bag Concert at noon, followed by the opening of the carnival in the Oregon Mutual Insurance parking lot at Fourth and Baker streets.

Long-term forecasts calls for highs in the low 90s Thursday afternoon, falling back into the mid-80s by the weekend.

The carnival opens at 3 p.m. the first day of its run and noon the next three days, continuing through Sunday. Discount ride coupons can be purchased at the Chamber of Commerce office on Adams Street, next to the McMinnville Aquatic Center, or at Oregon Stationers on Third Street or Express Employment Professionals on North Baker Street.

Additional information may be obtained by calling 503-472-6196.

This annual celebration is presented by the McMinnville Area Chamber of Commerce and the McMinnville Downtown Association. It dates back to the first Yamhill County Turkey Fair held in 1938. 

By World War II, Yamhill County had become Oregon’s largest turkey producer. The fair was developed as an agricultural forum where local growers could swap notes.

The event evolved into the Pacific Coast Turkey Exhibit. It morphed into Turkey Rama when the chamber signed on in 1961.

Turkeys or no turkeys, organizers say they strive to honor the original Turkey Rama theme by staging an old-fashioned community festival, complete with live music, games, food and family fun.

Vendors will begin setting up tents along Third Street and selected cross streets Thursday evening. They will open for business Friday morning. That means parking will be limited from Thursday on.

Signs will mark space reserved for vendors. They’ll need it for the duration of the event.

Friday’s Biggest Turkey Talent Contest and Street Dance are set to get underway at 6:15 p.m. Friday on the main event stage, downtown at the corner of Third and Davis streets. The popular lip sync affair gives local charities a chance to raise money for their cause.

Organizations sponsor a candidate who runs as a Turkey contestant.

In the weeks leading up to the event, the candidate who raises the most money is crowned the Biggest Turkey. The crowning takes place right after the Biggest Turkey Lip Sync, which gives contestants a final opportunity to raise some money.

Following the contest, the local band Black and Blue will play from 8:15 to 10 p.m. The menu of live music continues through Saturday evening.

New this year will be a second, open mic stage on Third Steet, between Ford and Galloway near Tommy’s Bike Shop, on Friday and Saturday. To register for a slot, contact the MDA at 503-472-3605.

The fun continues Saturday morning with the annual Turkey Trot, an 8k run/5k run benefiting the Willamette Valley Cancer Foundation and McMinnville Chamber of Commerce. It is being sponsored by the Willamette Valley Medical Center.

The Turkey Trot starts at 7 a.m. at the tennis courts on Park Drive. Parking will be limited, and once the event begins, motorists will need to keep an eye out for runners.

While downtown McMinnville will have its share of food vendors lined up alongside restaurants, the most popular place to eat Saturday may well be Wortman Park, home to the World’s Largest Turkey BBQ.

Grillmaster Andrew Worden and his team of volunteers will fire up the grill and set out to cook more than five tons of mouth-watering turkey over the weekend. Dinner will be served from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., or until the last bit is sold.

Live entertainment will be provided from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. by Nancy McCann & Friends, Second Winds Community Band and Magic Entertainment. The park will also host a disc golf tournament and family fun booths.

The feed will feature fresh turkey barbecued on site. Customers may order turkey dinners or a fully-cooked turkey half to take home.

Prices run $14 for adults, $10 for seniors and $5 for children. One children’s meal is offered free with every adult meal.

Half turkeys will be sold at East Wortman Park, the old Rite Aid location on 99W, Bi-Mart and the Downtown Association booth on Third Street. 

Volunteers from Zero Waste McMinnville will be working all weekend to ensure that as much trash as possible is diverted from a trip to the landfill. The group held a successful clean-up during this year’s UFO festival, and have also been providing recycling services for Thursday’s weekly Farmer’s Market.

For more information, visit www.mcminnville.org and www.downtownmcminnville.com.

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