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Finding Minnesota: King Turkey Day

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(credit: CBS) Mike Binkley
Mike Binkley has been covering Minnesota news for more than 25 year...
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WORTHINGTON, Minn. (WCCO) – Next weekend, the Traveling Turkey Trophy of Tumultuous Triumph will be on the line once again.

It’s an honor awarded each year to the “Turkey Capital of the World.”

Worthington has claimed that title for decades.

“It’s just sort of what makes us special, like it’s our mark on the world,” said Drew Fornoff, a member of the high school marching band. “We’re the Turkey Capital of the World.”

The city has been celebrating with King Turkey Days since the late 1930s when Worthington was a bigger producer of turkeys than it is today.

But then, Cuero, Texas has been calling itself the Turkey Capital for 100 years.

Since each city found out about the other’s claims, they’ve been battling it out with the annual “Great Gobbler Gallop” – a turkey race through the streets of each town.

Worthington’s turkey racer is named Paycheck, since they say “nothing goes faster than a paycheck.”

The racing team from Cuero counters with a bird named Ruby Begonia.

The four humans on the racing team try to quickly steer their turkey toward the finish line with the use of noisy paddles.

“We actually cannot touch the bird and we cannot touch the bird with the paddle,” said Amanda Walljasper, of the Worthington team. “But the noise that you can hear that it makes, we keep the bird hopefully on track, straight down the street.”

There’s one race in Worthington in September, one race in Cuero Texas in October, and the fastest cumulative time gets the annual title.

Other events during King Turkey Day include a free pancake feed, a 10K race, a flea market and turkey calling competition.

Shane Simpson is a former Minnesota state champ who will compete in Worthington again this year.

“Your nerves are the biggest thing,” he said. “Getting up there and making turkey sounds — which is kind of ridiculous to some people.”

King Turkey Day has gotten so big that big-name politicians and well-known celebrities have turned out to be a part of it.

“Liz Collin from WCCO, a Worthington native came (in 2011) and she did a fantastic job too,” said Brian Almberg, president of the King Turkey Day committee. “Kissed the bird; everything.”

Hubert Humphrey, Richard Nixon and Jesse Ventura are just a few of the politicians who have turned out to start the Great Gobbler Gallop.

For the record, Worthington leads the rivalry, with 21 wins and 17 losses.

“It’s a wonderful way to celebrate Worthington,” said band director Jon Lo

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