By editorial board • 

Turkey Rama had good run; some will mourn its passing

The king is dead. Long live the dukes, earls, counts, barons and other vassals, as there is no heir apparent for the crown and scepter.

We refer, of course, to Turkey Rama, apparently laid to rest after a once-glorious but increasingly diminished 61-year reign as McMinnville’s signature festival.

Turkey Rama died of a thousand cuts. Key components like the turkey races, Fireman’s Dance, bachelor auction, Biggest Turkey Contest, turkey halves barbecue and kiddie carnival fell away one by one over the years until little was left.

Local craft and merchandise booths once lined both sides of Third Street, interspersed with food booths operated as charitable fundraisers by local service clubs.

But over the years, wine bars displaced retail outlets and commercial food vendors muscled out service club amateurs, serving to erode business and civic buy-in. Then the pandemic finished things off, rendering Turkey Rama as dead as the once-robust local turkey industry that provided the original impetus.

All is not lost, though. We take heart in a rising tide of activities that, collectively, try to fulfill the Turkey Rama tradition of being McMinnville’s community melting pot event.

We count the UFO Festival, McMinnville Wine & Food Classic, Cruising McMinnville gut-dragging, Yamhill County Fair & Rodeo, Linfield and Confederated Tribes Camas Festival, Oregon International Air Show, Walnut City Music Festival and Asian Lunar New Year doings, among many others.

The McMinnville Area Chamber of Commerce is touting a new Brews, Bites and Bands event, but let’s not kid ourselves here: There is nothing distinctive, locally or otherwise, in brews, bites or bands.

Those are all standard elements of a night on the town — any town. McMinnville may be able to claim something of a corner on the UFO, wine, camas and gut-dragging markets, but certainly not on the beer, bar food and music markets.

If staged well, it should serve as a worthy fundraiser for the chamber’s business community mission. But it lacks distinctive character, and we see that as one of the hallmarks of a true signature event, along with suitable venue availability, sufficient volunteer support and broad community appeal cutting across age and gender lines.

Think St. Paul Rodeo or Mt. Angel Oktoberfest. It’s not just happenstance that those events have become synonymous with the communities they serve.

But few communities can lay claim to anything of such broad renown. Most make do with an array of offerings serving to fill niches large and small during their turns on the stage, and so, perhaps, can ours.

We can revel in the advent of events like the UFO Festival and Cruising McMinnville, even as many mourn the demise of a venerable but shop-worn Turkey Rama. But we still can hope for a successor community festival that celebrates McMinnville’s past, present and future.



You can also thank the chamber of commerce for pushing out all the local craft artists with the replacement of commercial business that sold cheap garbage. Years ago we had booth but the chamber made it harder for us to continue and then they put commercial reps in front of our business and basically blocked us off from the street so visitors couldnt even get in without squeezing between the booths and tripping over the booths boxes they stacked behind.

Web Design and Web Development by Buildable