By editorial board • 

New opportunities with change in Turkey Rama

The fate of Turkey Rama is unknown, and that’s just fine. After all, the original purpose of McMinnville’s annual community event — to promote the area’s major turkey industry — is long gone. No matter what shape the celebration takes, the important thing is that McMinnville — a place with rising allure as a tourism destination — continues to have a signature local-focus event that celebrates our community and identifies with the past, present and future of the city. 

The T-R name has lived on, along with gobble-related events like the Biggest Turkey competition (itself undergoing changes over the years) and the World’s Largest Turkey BBQ. 

As reported last week, the McMinnville Area Chamber of Commerce (which launched the festival in 1961) and the McMinnville Downtown Association (organizer of Third Street festivities for many years) are discussing the event’s future. Some likely argue to dismiss and replace the event altogether. There’s certainly precedent.

Before Turkey Rama, the main summer attraction in Mac was the Shodeo. The Sheriff’s Mounted Posse began the event in 1948 at its training and show grounds west of downtown along Second Street. The event caught on. Drill demonstrations, motorcycle stunts and midget car races were just a few highlights of Western revelry in a post-war life. Eventually, the celebration spread to downtown with a big parade and vendors. 

But interest in the biggest show in town dwindled, and the Shodeo shut down just as Turkey Rama took off. As former N-R columnist Karl Klooster wrote: “By then, times had changed dramatically from the days when entertainment options were few and television was something out of a Buck Rogers sci-fi comic.”

Many other area festivals and parades have come and gone. Newberg now puts on the Old Fashioned Days each summer. But back in the day, it was the Berrian Festival, planned all year by Newberg residents. The Dayton Buckaroo was another huge community event of yesteryear.

Just as people from around the state used to travel to the Walnut City for the Shodeo, they do so now for such events as the UFO Festival, Dragging the Gut and the International Pinot Noir Celebration — depending on individual preferences and interests. While those events include community aspects, they are more niche-driven and less neighborly than Turkey Rama. In recent years, the Chamber has done a wonderful job creating a successful Fourth of July celebration at the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum. But Independence Day events are everywhere, and this one doesn’t fill the need of a festival that says, “This is who and what McMinnville is.” 

Through all the variations of Turkey Rama over the decades, its defining accomplishment has been a local melting pot event that pulled the entire community. McMinnville is not the small town it once was, making it even more important to maintain some sort of festival that celebrates our heritage and shares the “McMinnville Way” with newer residents and visitors.

Turkey Rama may be due for an overhaul, and we hope to see the beginning of something even better.


Don Dix

The Shodeo grounds were located on Western Avenue near Newby, part of which became West 2nd.

In my opinion, the reasons TR has changed are varied. But the most prevalent is in the past, 3rd Street business were not so much specialty shops. Cost to Coast Hardware, Thrifty Drug, Millers, Rutherfords, the Mack and Lark theaters, Taylor Hardware, Ed's Shoe and Saddle, etc. All these were more inclusive to the basic needs of a family than what exists today. The variety of the past has morphed into specialty attractions which doesn't fit as many.


It’s hard to understand how a business can’t figure out how to take advantage of a huge inflow of people walking in front of their door......I remember a bakery downtown that would close for two days while 10k people walked in front of their shop. Needless to say, their not there anymore....


The one that most baffled me was the ice cream parlor, prior to becoming Serendipity. It would close every Turkey Rama, despite typically scorching weather with huge crowds.
It seems to me you should be able to sell vast quantities of ice cream.

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