Turkeys Tossed From A Plane Once a Year
Yellville has a problem. It wants people to come to its annual Turkey Trot festival -- and yet the most spectacular event in the festival is something that the town can't talk about.
That something is the "Turkey Drop," where live wild turkeys are dropped out of a low-flying airplane that circles the two-day festival.
Turkey Trot has been celebrated on the second Friday and Saturday of October every year since 1946. It was conceived as a way to call attention to the region's abundant wild turkeys. A highlight of the festival was the "Turkey Toss," in which live wild turkeys were tossed off of the roof of the County Courthouse. In the 1960s this was replaced by the Turkey Drop.
The thinking behind the toss/drop was that most of the turkeys would escape into the wild and thereby increase the local population. The problem is that wild turkeys can't fly very well. Some of the birds would splat on the pavement. Some that landed safely ended up being chased around town.
The splattering and the chasing drew unwelcome national media attention in the 1970s and 1980s, and animal rights groups threatened legal action. Since 1990, Yellville has officially divorced itself of the Turkey Drop -- it isn't mentioned in any Turkey Trot literature -- and yet it still happens every year. The town's position is that mysterious planes just show up over the festival every October and drop turkeys (although the drop point has been moved to the south edge of town so that the pilots don't violate FAA altitude regulations). Four or five drops take place each day, with one to three turkeys per trip.
Another memorable event at the Turkey Trot is the Miss Drumsticks beauty contest, in which the winners are chosen while their faces and upper bodies are hidden.