November 20 was chosen as the day to kick off community Thanksgiving holiday spirit. The Calhoun Times ran several articles leading up to the special day inviting people to come out and enjoy the festivities.
The gala included carnival stunts, athletic contests, and addresses by Governor M.E. Thompson, Congressman Henderson Lanham and State School Superintendent M.D. Collins. But the most popular part of the day was the release of 20 live turkeys into the crowd.
The November 27 front page of the Calhoun Times read “Success Crowns Turkey-Trot Day.” The article reported that more than 5,000 people attended the festivities.
“Calhoun’s First Annual ‘Turkey Trot’ has gone down in history as ‘the greatest event since Sherman ‘retreated’ through Calhoun in his march to the sea.”
Pete Lewis and long time friend James “Blue” Moore remember being there that day as young boys.
“The local business men decided they needed something to bring people to town. They started what they thought would be an annual event called ‘Turkey-Trot Day’ here in Calhoun,” said Lewis. “Their plan was to have stores open late before Thanksgiving and give away some turkeys for the next day’s feast. It was a big deal. The Governor came up and spoke to the crowd and there were reporters from the Constitution on hand to commemorate the inaugural event,” he said.
“Then numerous, and I do mean numerous, live turkeys were released into the crowd. I guess they felt certain that people would catch them,” said Lewis. “The only fly in the ointment was that the turkeys didn’t know the plan so they flew up on top of the buildings and roosted there for days. The annual event became a one time affair,” said Lewis.
Although listed as a success by the paper, hardly any of the 5,000 participants managed to catch one of the 20 turkeys, including Governor Thompson. One of the few lucky enough to do so was Blue Moore.
“I was 19 years old and I believe the City sponsored the Turkey-Trot to draw people to town to shop. It was the first and only one,” Moore recalled. “Somebody lifted me up onto the marquis. I was pretty high up and probably shouldn’t have even been up there. I was at the right height to catch one and I did! I was so happy and everybody was clapping and excited. We had that turkey for Thanksgiving dinner,” he said.
Although crowned a success, Turkey-Trot Day was never held again. Today’s Calhoun Downtown Development Authority takes a different approach to bringing the community together for the holidays.
“This year we’ve partnered with the Gordon County Young Farmers to have all farm animals in downtown, not just turkeys. And we made sure these are grounded and not able to fly,” said. Suzanne Roland, Downtown Development Authority director.
Roland is referring to the hay bales decorated as farm animals positioned in front of many businesses in the downtown area.
Beginning at 5:30 on Wednesday night, the eve of Thanksgiving, there will be a live tree lighting ceremony in the BB&T City Park to kick off the holidays. Rock Bridge Community Church will address the crowd with the musical group Turnin’ Point performing. A soup and hot dog supper will also be served. The tree will be lit at 6:30. This event is free to the community.
Roland encourages everyone to attend.
“Also on Thanksgiving night we will light the tree in front of the Courthouse at 6:30. Santa will be there for pictures. The Santa Express Train will be available for children to ride and hot chocolate and coffee will be served.”
The event is free with an option to purchase keepsake Santa photo CDs for $10.
“After you’ve spent the day giving thanks with your family. Begin a new tradition with Downtown Calhoun and Gordon County Young Farmers by ushering in the Christmas season,” she said.