The days of dropping live turkeys out of planes in Yellville could be over.
The future of the annual Turkey Trot festival was thrown into doubt in April when the Yellville Chamber of Commerce, the longtime organizer of the annual fall event, announced that it would no longer continue as
It was unclear whether the festival would continue without a sponsor, but the Mid-Marion County Rotary Club has stepped up to the plate, the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports. The Rotary Club voted 16-6 on Monday to take over sponsorship. However, it attached a key condition: It will only sponsor the event if no live turkeys are on the premises or dropped from planes. The
Backers of the festival, which has taken place annually for 72 years, have often stated that it’s about more than the ritualistic practice of dropping turkeys, sometimes to their death, out of planes. The festival also features a parade, food, and so on. “Turkey Trot is so much more than turkeys being released from an airplane,” the Yellville Chamber lamented in a statement last fall. “However, to outsiders, that is all it is.” A rhapsodic editorial in the Baxter Bulletin blamed the “flatulent cacophony” of PETA for killing the festival: “Much like the people and practices you decry for the obliteration of various animal species, you killed something without understanding it or attempting to even comprehend the destruction you caused.” And so on.
We’ll see whether fans of the tradition are satisfied with a Turkey Trot without turkeys dropping. No word yet from Dana Woods, who was revealed by various media outlets as the “phantom pilot” who has done the drops in recent years in 2016. The Phantom Pilot Facebook page was defiant when news broke that sponsorship was lost in April. Reacting to the Yellville Chamber’s decision at the time, Woods (I assume) stated: “The Phantom is saddened by this news, but urges others to be respectful of their decisions.” However, he went on, “It’s my understanding that though the chamber will no longer be involved, there are plans in the works to continue the festival. I wouldn’t revise my October schedule just yet.” There have thus far been no new posts since the news broke that the festival can continue with new sponsorship — but without a role for the phantom pilot.
“We treat the turkeys right,” Woods, a Mountain View pharmacist who runs Woods Pharmacy and serves on the Mountain View City Council, explained to the Democrat-Gazette in 2016. “We’re good to them.”
Wild turkeys typically fly only short distances, less than 100 feet. The domesticated birds dropped in Yellville are not
In addition to protests from animal rights activists, the practice has also occasionally run afoul of federal regulators. At one point, they switched to dropping them out of a second-story window, but in recent years they’ve gone back to an airplane.
The practice of turkey-dropping is regulated by the Federal Air Administration, which has deemed