It started as a way to pay for one deserving youth to attend 4H camp in Jackson’s Mills.
Now, the Turkey Trot not only provides support for scholarships and the 4H camp, it has also blossomed into a Thanksgiving town reunion. It’s origins remain the core of its mission, though, as Jason Talkington describes “to benefit the youth of Harrison County.”
The organization holding the 5k race and walking event is the Marie Gaston Scholarship Foundation, an IRS recognized 501 © 3 non-profit. As Talkington says, “every cent raised goes into Marie’s fund.”
Gaston, a Lincoln High School graduate and excellent student, was an active 4H member and teen leader, as well as class president. She tragically perished in a car accident in January of 1992, leaving a legacy of excellence that the scholarship has perpetuated 30 years hence.
The program started as a way to help kids from struggling families, or families with multiple children wishing to go. Talkington described that as the program evolved, it could help additional children with both full and partial scholarships.
Over the years, the Turkey Trot grew from a first year number of 53. Last year, over 800 competed and hundreds more came to enjoy the fun and festivities.
Growth in numbers signing up to race also brought more funds to do more with the camp. The foundation purchased snap circuits that light up, make noises, and perform other basic functions. Both at the camp and at area schools, counselors and teachers used them to promote STEM education.
Also, the foundation bought recreational equipment that all campers who attend events at Jackson’s Mills can enjoy, such as gaga ball and ping pong.
In recent years, they used funds to improve the educational assemblies. Talkington said they once were seen as “low points,” until the foundation used honorariums to attract dynamic, fun, and informative national level speakers to talk about bullying, kindness, and other important topics.
The Turkey Trot is not just a community party, but also an official race. Trotters can either run the full length or walk a casual course, both certified by US Track and Field. A chip timing service uses the latest technology to ensure proper documentation of times. They even establish aid stations for competitors.
Every effort is made to ensure that the low $20 entry fee provides as much value as possible. “It’s the best deal in the region,” Talkington said.
The first 600 who register get an official race bag full of goodies, described by Talkington as “our best in 15 years.” Those who register prior to Oct 20 will receive a professional grade double knit race T shirt.
The event starts at 7 AM. Racers start at 9 and the entire event is usually wrapped up by 10:30 so that attendees and volunteers alike can get home and prepare for their holiday. The Turkey Trot also includes live music, Santa and Mrs. Claus, food, and more.
The foundation also awards prizes for the largest team, goofiest name, and other fun aspects.
Talkington shared that many doubted that one could hold a successful event, especially a race, on Thanksgiving morning. He said that he took the Field of Dreams motto “if you build it, they will come,” to heart. Also, Thanksgiving is nationally the most popular day to hold races.
A graduate of Lincoln High School living away from home, Talkington said “I don’t get to see people a lot,” but sees many of his old friends at the Turkey Trot. “it’s just a fun day,” he said, adding that “it’s a blast to see people come and hang out.”
Those with questions can access a “questions” button on the website or contact the Facebook page.