By Nastacia Voisin • Of the News-Register • 

Attractions new and old draw Turkey Rama crowd

Marcus Larson / News-Register
Ed Wanner was crowned Biggest Turkey in friendly competition Friday afternoon.
Marcus Larson / News-Register
Ed Wanner was crowned Biggest Turkey in friendly competition Friday afternoon.

“Come on, Tajen,” his father, Timothy coaxed. “Pick one, buddy.”

The 3-year old’s hands wavered among toys strung along a tent beam. The bearded banana? The pink bird?

He finally settled on a velvety black ninja character with fearsome eyebrows and an oversized head. He began squeezing it possessively the moment the attendant pressed it in his hands.

“It’s his first carnival,” Timothy said, watching his son abandon the magnetic fish pond to investigate other attractions. “We’ve just been having a great time out here together.”

Like the rest of Friday’s Turkey Rama crowd, they ignored the throbbing afternoon heat in favor of having fun. They worked in doses of shaved ice to cool down.

Over the clattering, rushing roar of the roller coaster, children could be heard negotiating with their parents for extra rides and cotton candy. Even if soaring temperatures had deterred some carnival-goers, the energy would pick up by sunset, promised Renee Parenti, a three-year veteran of Davis Shows Northwest.

On Third Street, the celebration was in full swing, with vendors lining the sidewalks, throngs of people clogging the road and music filling the air. This year, booths had been organized along side streets under the themes Vintage Road, Kids’ Corner, Home & Garden and Turkey Town.

Food and water vendors appeared to be the largest draw, but a lot of people paused to check out the 1930 Ford Model A at the entrance of Vintage Road. Many were drawn to investigate the lace, antique dishware and home accessories farther down the street.

Cassie Sollars, manager of the McMinnville Downtown Association, said the constant flow of people was heartening.

“Having Third Street as the hub works so well,” she said. “This way, people don’t have to get in their hot cars to reach the next attraction.”

It was too early to evaluate the success of the themed streets, she said, but there were already plans to bring them back next year.

“We’ll build on it,” she said. “I think it would be a mistake to do it for just one year.”

By 4 p.m., members of the dwindling crowd were seeking refuge on shaded sidewalks, pressing cold water bottles to their faces, waving fans and eating ice cream.

Sheltered by an overhang, Isabell and Alexander Grimaldo perched on the bench outside RJ Studio to share cotton candy and elephant ears as their mother, Evangelia, took a break.

“I’ve been trying to keep them busy,” she said, laughing at the very idea. “But it’s been great, especially now that it’s cooling down and there are fewer people.”

Having entertained them with carnival rides, face painting and food, she was now waiting for the Biggest Turkey lip sync contest. The popular event enticed people to begin grabbing black plastic chairs clustered in front of the stage a half hour early.

After an hour of inventive skits, creative costumes and surprising talent, the audience cheered as emcee Jon Gross announced the record amount raised in this year’s Biggest Turkey contest — $142,519.

Ed Wanner of Mid-Valley Rehabilitation was crowned this year’s Biggest Turkey for raising $38,350. His performance — completed with the help of several Mid-Valley residents — also earned him first place in the lip sync contest.

Garbed in KLYC 1260 AM T-shirts, Wanner was joined by Mid-Valley clients in dancing to clips of six songs, themed to honor the organizations he was competing against. During his acceptance speech, he said his intent was to highlight the importance of each program and the wonderful community he lives in.

“McMinnville,” he said. “You’re the best.”

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