Rose Hilliard

Here’s the Sunday open line. Might we actually have a fall after all?

Also featured: a letter from Rose Hilliard, who took a camera to Yellville for the annual Turkey Trot festival to highlight turkeys tossed from buildings and an airplane into a crowd that finds sport in chasing the birds to ground. She took photos of the turkey wranglers in official T-shirts so she could share some of the sponsors of the festivities, removed from the Yellville Chamber of Commerce website to shield them from worldwide criticism over the enduring practice

Hilliard’s letter:

I had never been to Turkey Trot before. As a local animal lover, I was there to see it myself and document the “festivities” both Friday and Saturday.Incredibly, I actually managed to save the big tom turkey that Dan Melton from Mountain Home captured at his feet downtown on Friday afternoon (pictured in the Baxter Bulletin). That bird is on his way to a farm sanctuary today with 3 other birds that other rescuers were able to obtain on Saturday. One of the birds was injured and is being seen by a vet. So, out of the 13 or so turkeys that were trucked in on that makeshift trailer [in photographs she sent], we all managed to save 4 from more mistreatment and a probably very nasty end. None of us were able to retrieve any birds that were dumped from the new plane that arrived late morning on Saturday. They were strewn over the same cow pasture along Crooked Creek once again. When no plane showed up on Friday afternoon, we were thrilled and hopeful, but then Saturday happened.  [The Baxter Bulletin identified the plane here, registered to Aldino Raimondi of Yellville.]

It was a horrid experience for all of us – even worse for all the stressed out turkeys that were chased and manhandled – temps were 88-90 degrees and turkeys were being tossed and dumped out, chased down by screaming people, everywhere downtown – from the courthouse roof, an adjacent building and even from the stage area straight into the crowd where women were fighting over them. The photos of the “lady” in the pink tee and her buddies kind of tell the story. I saw this bird tossed from the front of the courthouse roof, it glided to the building roof across the street where 3 or 4 guys climbed up the electrical pole to get on the roof and grab him. Her bare-chested buddy paid that guy $20 for the bird and handed it to her hanging upside down by his legs. She then ties the bird’s legs together with twine and plopped him down on the sidewalk in front of her like it was nothing and went back to playing on her cell phone while the stressed-out bird gasped and panted, breathing through his open mouth which as you probably already know, is a classic sign of severe stress in birds. I tried to buy this poor bird from her but she refused to give him up. A passerby stooped and gave the bird cool water from their own container and others walked around him. She told me personally she was “going to take the bird home, fatten him up and chop his head off for Thanksgiving dinner.

I’ve heard rumors that one bird died in this event this year, but have no confirmation, photos or details..

Attached are some pics that I took. The Chamber of Commerce most certainly is participating in this – or else the city of Yellville, many of the people removing the birds from the trailer, handling them and tossing the birds had STAFF tee shirts on and while the courthouse was closed to the public, they had access to take the birds up to the roof to throw them off. Since they’ve removed sponsors from their website, I took photos of their names on the “official” Turkey Trot tee shirt. You’re welcome to use any of this pics as you will.

I’m thoroughly disgusted at the use of live animals for this festivity and am glad that you’ve taken a strong editorial stand against this cruel redneck entertainment!

Complaints such as these seem to have only steeled the resolve of the Yellville Chamber of Commerce and others to continue the practice, though the Chamber tries to disavow connection with the dropping of turkeys from an airplane, if not from buildings downtown.


PS: These are NOT wild turkeys. It is against Game and Fish regulation to trap or hold wild turkeys. Domesticated turkeys are raised to have big, fat breasts for eating. I’m guessing this doesn’t increase their aerodynamic properties.

Also: One shirt being worn at the festival listed a number of local businesses and agencies on the back including the Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation and the Fred Berry Conservation Education Center of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.  I’m unclear if this was a Turkey Trot or other T-shirt, though the sponsors seemed event-related. A Game and Fish spokesman said the sponsor was the foundation, which is an independent nonprofit that supports the Commission. The Center is a joint project of the foundation and the commission. I’m curious how the agency views the handling of birds at Yellville. He did confirm that wild animals may not be legally used.