By David Bates • Staff Writer • 

Time for Turkey Rama to take flight

News-Register file photo##Volunteers barbecue turkey in Wortman Park at a previous Turkey Rama celebration.
News-Register file photo##Volunteers barbecue turkey in Wortman Park at a previous Turkey Rama celebration.

Turkey Rama, McMinnville’s signature summer bash, will flap its feathers for the 57th time this weekend. And based on weather forecasts, it looks as if conditions will be summer perfect — sunny with daytime highs in the upper 80s. 

The official start date is Friday, but between the Farmers Market and more than three hours of live music in the US Bank Plaza, the downtown party actually gets going Thursday afternoon. The Mondegreens, a Seattle-based rock band, will be joined by Freddie Lamb in performing there from 5:30 to 9 p.m. Thursday.

The celebration ramps up at 10 a.m. Friday, with vendors lining Third Street and assorted cross streets, a food court along Davis and a family-friendly beer garden at Third and Evans. The Davis Shows NW Family Carnival is slated to open at 3 p.m. in the Oregon Mutual Insurance parking lot at Fifth and Baker streets, adding another popular element.

The carnival runs until 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday nights, and opens at noon Saturday and Sunday. Advance tickets are available at Oregon Stationers, Express Employment Professionals and the Chamber of Commerce office.

The main stage is located at Third and Evans this year. Live entertainment, featuring a mix of music and children’s activities and even yoga, starts at 3 p.m. on Friday and 10 a.m. on Saturday.

Turkey Rama’s signature event, the Biggest Turkey Lip Sync contest, is slated to run 6:30 to 8 p.m Friday. The competition is a chance for local charities and organizations to raise money for their causes.

While Third Street will look and sound like usual, there are actually two major changes this year.

There will be no Turkey Trot on Saturday morning. And Saturday’s signature event — the World’s Largest Turkey BBQ at Wortman Park, a mouth-watering nod to the county’s former status as the state’s largest turkey producer — will not offer sit-down meals this year.

Organizers framed those as cost-cutting moves. 

Fear not, however. There will be plenty of turkey.

Grillmaster Andrew Worden and his team of volunteers will cook more than four tons this weekend. Turkey halves will go on sale for $22 at 10 a.m., and remain on sale until 5 p.m. or when the supply runs out.

In addition to Wortman Park, you may purchase fully cooked turkey halves at the McMinnville Area Chamber of Commerce information booth on Third Street or the parking lots of Bi-Mart, toward the south end of town, and the Town Center shopping center, on to the north.

The festivities, which take a year to plan and coordinate, are presented by the McMinnville Area Chamber of Commerce and McMinnville Downtown Association, both of which marshal lots of volunteers. Major sponsors include First Federal, McMenamins, Foster Farms and Oregon Mutual.

The event dates back to 1938, when it debuted as the Yamhill County Turkey Fair. By the early 1940s, Yamhill County had become Oregon’s leading turkey producer, and the fair developed as an agricultural forum where local growers could swap notes on the feeding and breeding of the big birds on the side.

Later known as the Pacific Coast Turkey Exhibit, the event morphed into Turkey Rama when the McMinnville chamber signed on in 1961.

The popular event draws thousands into downtown McMinnville, making it all but inaccessible to vehicles. If you’re driving, plan on parking at least several blocks out and walking a ways.

For a complete schedule, visit www.mcminnville.org or www.downtownmcminnville.com. 

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