By Molly • Molly Walker • 

Community support shines in Turkey Rama

“It’s a tradition not just in the community, but in the lives of members of the community,” he said. Having done some catering himself, he was especially intrigued with the way volunteers came together to pull off the turkey barbecue, some of them having served in the same position for years.

A combination of the old guard and new guard pulled off the effort to barbecue 5 1/2 tons of turkey. And, while the hot weather limited the turnout for the World Famous Turkey Barbecue, all the birds ended up being sold in the end.

“It was a good experience for a lot of the newbies,” Knottingham said. 

Kyle Faulk, president of the McMinnville Downtown Association, was equally enthused.

“We really appreciate the partnership with the chamber,” he said. “That went really well. The community support is unbelievable.”

Faulk said the heat was a factor to contend with, but he said the feedback had been highly positive nonetheless. And he said he got some good suggestions for the future.

“We made some very positive strides with a few changes on Third Street,” Faulk said. The themed areas, including Vintage Road, Kids’ Corner, Home and Garden and Turkey Town, were a new addition he hopes the MDA can build on.

“From our perspective, it was a very good event,” he said. “We had a lot of energy from our members.”

Janet Adams, who served as chair for Soroptimist International of McMinnville’s fundraising booth, said the end figure wasn’t what the club had seen in the past or hoped for this year, thanks to the weather. She estimated elephant ear sales were down 25 percent.

But that didn’t dampen the spirits of club volunteers, who seemed to be having fun as they stretched, fried and topped the large pieces of dough for customers to consume.

“It seemed like, generally, the feel of the event was up, happy and hot,” Adams said. “Overall, we’re pleased with the money we raised.”

The end result will be less for the club’s scholarship and human trafficking awareness programs, but still plenty enough to help, she said.

Cara Lagunas, owner of Third Street Oil & Vinegar, had attended Turkey Rama in the past as a spectator. This was her first on the sales end.

“It was eye opening,” Lagunas said. “These businesses work hard, very long hours.”

She said merchants are so happy to be on Third Street they are delighted to pitch in on the community’s signature celebration. She said it’s that kind of spirit that let McMinnville into the finals for best main street in America.

“There’s such a sense of community,” she said. And she said, “The turkeys were delicious again this year.”

One of the big success stories was the event’s Biggest Turkey contest, which was a record-setter. Four charities split $70,000 last year; this year, six of them split $142,000 — more than twice as much.

“I’ve never seen a community come together and raise that much money in three months,” Knottingham said. Ed Wanner of Mid-Valley Rehabilitation was crowned Biggest Turkey, but all six of the nonprofits benefited from the successful event.

The Turkey Trot, which featured 8K and 5K runs, plus a 5K walk, was also successful, Knottingham said. He said it drew 167 participants.

This was the first year that the courses were actually certified with Eclectic Edge, which provided microchipped timing.

There were 17 participants in the second annual Turkey Rama Beard and Mustache Contest, held Saturday afternoon. Zack Geary served as the Master of Ceremonies, announcing the winners in the five divisions.

The honors went to Jesse Scott, most creative; Bill Hurliman, best combo; Anthony Quayle, best beard; Denny Vullo, best mustache; and Lee Currier, best Tom Sellack look.

All together, Knottingham expected money totals for the chamber’s events, including the turkey barbecue and carnival, to be down from last year, mostly due to the heat. But he said the chamber didn’t take a loss.

He noted Cycle Oregon used McMinnville as the hub for a series of weekend bike rides in addition. He said that actually worked well, as the events seemed to complement each other.

Next year, Knottingham said, Turkey Rama will be celebrating its 55th anniversary and the chamber its 100th. He said that should be grounds for an extra big bash.

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