When I moved to Worthington 15 years ago, there were several things that I had to adjust to. No, I’m not talking about the prairie or the weather or the figures of speech. Not this time.
This time I’m talking about things like King Turkey Day.
I should probably explain what King Turkey Day is…though, to be sure, it’s all a little hazy to me. As I understand it, Worthington, Minnesota clains to be the turkey capitol of the world. So does Cuero, Texas. And so they decided to duke it out with a turkey race. We race here…then, next month, we race there in Texas. It’s all very exciting. Overall, Worthington has won twenty-some times, I think, and Cuero like 18 times. So, yes, it’s been going on for that many years, though Worthington has celebrated King Turkey Day for seventysome years. They used to run an entire flock of turkeys down main street. Can you even imagine?! That would have been a sight to see.
These days there are just two turkeys…and a ton of floats. I have always enjoyed a good parade. There’s something patriotic about parades – no matter what country you’re from, the nation’s colors show up, national anthems are sung, politicians may even be present. The Turkey Day parade is no exception. Now, I admit, I do not fully participate in the King Turkey Days activities – and yes, I probably should. I have not tossed frozen turkeys, had a beer in the hallowed tent, or shaken the hands of the “other” guys from Cuero, Texas. Those things may be in my future, who can say. But I have, often, attended the parade. All two+ hours of it. And let me say, for someone who isn’t from here – and who, therefore, isn’t seeing hundreds of old acquaintances, returned home for the festivities – not to mention the fact that I don’t exactly love crowds – I feel like just being there is an accomplishment.
This year, for the first time, I had the fun to actually being IN the parade. I had thought that I would be hidden away in the vehicle that pulled the Girl Scout float. I was wrong. I got to walk the parade, even though I never was a girl scout and I wasn’t even wearing the correct colors. I got to pass out boxes of cookies (“No, you can’t have one. You’re a teenaged boy, not a little girl!”) and I got to see the smiles on the faces of the wee girls as I handed them a whole box of cookies!! This was way more fun that I imagined it would be.
Let me back-up a little. Many of you know – but many of you do not – what being in the parade entails. It means you arrive at 12:45 or so for a parade that begins at 2:00. It means that, even though the parade begins at 2:00, you still have to stand around waiting your turn until almost 4:00 if you’re float number is 107, as ours was. It means that you drink bottles and bottles of water and that you kick yourself for not putting on sunscreen – and praise yourself for forcing it on your kids.
Hanging out in the waiting line also means that you get to see all of the other floats pass your way. This is very fun and establishes camaraderie the likes of which I hadn’t seen since summer camp. It also makes for a lot of tired girl scouts. It also means that I had to miss my son in the middle school marching band because, like I said, I was stuck way back at #107 and he was #15. Bother. I heard the dulcet tones of Star Wars drifting to me on the wind once, at least, and that was fun.
It also means that I missed seeing the turkeys race. Missed seeing Worthington’s turkey get beaten by Cuero, Texas’s turkey as they raced down mainstreet. Yes, I said raced. The turkeys race. If you’ve never seen turkeys race each other, relax, because I haven’t actually, either. The crowds are always so huge that I have never gotten a glimpse.
I also missed hearing the speaker. Missed my children gathering huge amounts of candy. (That was okay by me.) I was bummed to miss seeing the Worthington High School marching band, so am especially glad I saw them this summer. I also missed seeing local friends. I thought, erroneously, that I would see them all, that I would have the perfect vantage point. This is the dream of a novice. The view from the road, as I walked in the parade – passing the crowds on every side – is very different from the crowd’s view.
When you are in the crowd, you see everyone in the parade or on the sidewalks and you say “hi” a million times. Walking the parade means that your vision is tunneled…yet also focused. I saw lots of little potential Girl Scouts…but only about two friends, and that was because one of them had a little girl and one of them had my son and he had to yell at me about five times before I heard him.
I have to admit that I agreed to be on the float because I didn’t have much choice. It was either that or I would be a schmuck. So I said yes, and resigned myself to it. But here’s the beauty of the thing: I really, really enjoyed myself. No, I don’t totally “get” King Turkey Day….but, for the first time, I really, really liked it.