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To some it's an Ozark Mountain Mardi Gras that includes live turkeys being dropped from a low-flying plane to an eager crowd below. To others, it's just animal abuse.
The 72nd Yellville Turkey Trot opened Friday with questions over whether the turkey drop portion would continue. The Chamber of Commerce for the small northern Arkansas city has distanced itself from the tradition it once endorsed and is hoping a "phantom pilot" won't fly over this weekend. But that hasn't stopped thousands of people from emailing the chamber about doing more to protect the birds.
Yourselves - Parachute - Person - Chamber - Monday
"Why don't you jump yourselves with no parachute. ... Think you'll like it?" one person wrote to the chamber Monday. Others used more colorful language.
Arkansas is one of the nation's top turkey-producing states, and the weekend festival is meant to be a celebration of the bird. There is a 5K run, music and dancing, and the Miss Drumsticks pageant, in which contestants are judged only on their legs. Of course, turkey also stars on food vendors' menus.
Fall - Yellville - Chamber - Commerce - Letter
"It means fall is here," the Yellville Chamber of Commerce wrote in an open letter. "It means a turkey dinner a few weeks earlier than the rest of America. It means homecoming for many. ... Turkey Trot is so much more than turkeys being released from an airplane."
The festival started a year after World War II as a complement to a turkey calling contest run by the local American Legion hall. During the first turkey drops, which helped the festival draw a crowd, the birds were dropped from the courthouse roof for people to chase, with some becoming pets and the others Thanksgiving dinner. But at least 50 years ago, the switch was made to a small plane.
National - Enquirer - Article - Flights - Outrage
A 1989 National Enquirer article on the flights sparked outrage and prompted the chamber to...
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