September 2nd Saturday after Labor Day - King Turkey Day
As recently as 1871, Old Lady Leary still was keeping a cow in the city of Chicago. As the story goes, one dark night when the kids were all in bed, Old Lady Leary took a lantern to her shed - Chicago burns.
In the 1870s, the Gay ‘90s, the turn of the century years, those were years Americans raised their own chickens, ducks and turkeys on their farmyards. Or they made the trip over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house. Or they kept a small poultry flock behind their own houses, even in the great cities.
By the 1920s, urban Americans were looking for fresh dressed chickens in their markets. An industry emerged in the area about Worthington, Minnesota, where chickens were grown in small flocks but in great numbers. Three produce plants (so they were called) emerged: E.O. Olson’s Worthmore Creamery & Producer, J.C. Boote’s Hatchery and Produce, and Farmers Produce. Jobs were created for women; chickens were processed year around, loaded into refrigerated rail cars and shipped to Chicago and Easter markets.
The office of the Chamber of Commerce, with its first full time professional manager, suggested capitalizing on the region’s most remarkable feature: the great flocks of turkeys. Merchants liked the suggestion. E.O. Olson (of the produce plant), who had been traveling in the South, told of a turkey festival he had seen at Cuero, Texas, at which a flock of live turkeys led a community parade. An autumn celebration of turkeys was organized, beginning with a free early morning pancake feast and including a parade. Barrels of turkey tail feathers were set out at street-side all through the downtown business district for souvenirs. Merchants dressed in denim overalls and plaid shirts for a week - a familiar garb of their farmer customers.
What Happened Next
1940 was a repeat of 1939, nearly. There was even more media coverage. Minnesota’s Boy Wonder Governor, Harold Stassen, was invited to be the featured speaker. The emerging festival caught the attention of Life magazine. Gay Hower, owner of Worthington’s two movie theaters, arranged to bring newsreel cameramen to town - Worthington’s Turkey Day festival was reflected from big silver screens around the world.
Before the year was ended there was disaster, however. November 11 (Armistice Day) brought one of the fiercest winter storms in the history of the region. The fat tom turkeys on the ranges, standing in line nearly for Thanksgiving shipment, perished by the tens of thousands in a relentless gush of Arctic air, wind, snow and ice.
Before Worthington had a chance for a third turkey festival, its turkey industry was nearly destroyed.
The Show Must Go On
Although turkeys continued to be raised in the area, the flocks were rather far between. But turkeys continued to be processed at Worthington; it was said there was no place on earth where more turkeys were processed each year. There was a growing demand for turkey poults and for turkey eggs; it was said there was no place on earth where more turkeys were hatched each year. And turkeys continued to be celebrated. No one, not the news media, not the politicians, not the residents of the World’s Turkey Capital, wanted the celebration to be forgotten or diminished. There was no place on earth where turkeys were celebrated as they were at Worthington - dozens of marching bands, scores of beauty queens, sparkling floats and a growing roster of some of the most illustrious American political figures of the 20th Century.
North Star vs. Lone Star
In 1972, thirty-four years after E.O. Olson made his stop at Cuero, Texas, Worthington received a report that the Texas city had staged a live turkey race - a turkey trot - as part of its turkey celebration. The Worthington Turkey Day committee was nudged to send a challenge to Texas. The next year, 1973, Cuero sent a turkey and a delegation of handlers to Worthington, to be pitted against a Worthington bird in what was billed as the Great Gobbler Gallop on Worthington’s 10th Street. The Worthington turkey then, and in all years to follow, was named Paycheck (nothing goes faster than a paycheck). The Texas bird was Ruby Begonia.
The Gobbler Gallop has always been in two laps against the clock, one lap on Worthington’s main street and a second lap on Cuero’s main street. The bird with the best combined times is the winner each year.
The race of the North Star and the Lone Star turkeys has been a feature of the turkey celebrations both at Worthington and at Cuero for three decades. Each year the Texans send a delegation to Worthington’s Turkey Day and Worthington sends a delegation to Texas.
Among Turkey Day traditions none has proved more enduring than the pancake breakfast. At every celebration since the first, Worthington has hosted all who choose to partake at a Turkey Day breakfast of juice, coffee, pancakes and sausage. The early morning repasts are popular. There is often a line of residents waiting to take their turn.
When Life magazine still was a weekly American institution, it focused more than once on the Turkey Day celebration. A Life photo sequence of Estes Kefauver being given a live bird which nearly got away earned the Tennessee senator some of his best national coverage and comment. This was in the era when newsreel cameras still were sent to Worthington to report on Turkey Day for movie audiences.
In the decades since its inception, Turkey Day has been reported on by newspapers, wire services, television and radio networks, in addition to magazines. The Great Gobbler Gallop has been featured in Sports Illustrated and Turkey Day politics have been reported on both in Time and Newsweek. The celebration of turkeys also has earned international media attention. It has been reported on in European and Japanese publications.
September 3rd Saturday - International Coastal Cleanup Day
Hundreds of thousands of people will descend on beaches, lakes, and streams all over the world to remove trash and debris — on land and under the water. Volunteers of all ages from every continent will form the largest weekend volunteer event on behalf of clean oceans and waterways — Ocean Conservancy's International Coastal Cleanup.
Visit the Ocean Conservancy to see how you can help.
September 3rd Saturday - Puppy Mill Awareness Day
What are Puppy Mills?
Puppy Mills are breeding facilities that produce puppies in large numbers. Documented problems of puppy mills include: unsanitary facilities, overbreeding, inbreeding, disease, minimal veterinary care, poor quality of food and shelter, lack of human socialization, overcrowded cages and the killing of unwanted animals. Often the puppies are sold directly to the public via the Internet, newspaper ads, or at the mill itself. In other cases, they are sold to brokers and pet shops across the country.
Puppy Mill Facts
- Puppy mills contribute to millions of unwanted dogs who are euthanized each year in the United States.
- Mill puppies are more likely to have severe health problems, genetic defects and behavioral issues.
- Documented puppy mill conditions include over-breeding, inbreeding, minimal veterinary care, poor food and shelter, crowded cages and lack of socialization.
- Dogs kept for breeding in puppy mills suffer for years and are bred as often as possible before they are killed, sold through auction like used cars or abandoned.
Visit the Puppy Mill Awareness website for more information.
September 19 - Slimey the Worm's Birthday
Slimey is Oscar's pet worm. Originally, Slimey was a silent character who communicated with squeaks and gestures. Later, he has developed a voice provided by Marty Robinson (which is digitally manipulated in post-production to achieve a higher pitch). Slimey shows skill at playing the tuba and the clarinet, and has the distinction of being the first worm on the moon.
Slimey's earliest known appearance is in a second season Sesame Street episode in which Oscar enters Slimey in a Sesame Street Pet Show.