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The Great Turkey Toss of Jonesborough

Updated on November 12, 2012
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Jules Corriere is a playwright and theater director, having written over 40 plays, one of them performing at the Kennedy Center in D.C.

A Short-Lived Tradition...And True Story!

Thanksgiving is about giving thanks and showing appreciation, and the well-intentioned Merchants Association in Jonesborough, Tennessee, tried to express their gratitude to their clients. But their idea wasn't completely thought out and ended in...disaster. Far before the famous turkey episode some may remember from WKRP in Cincinnati, the real-life Turkey Toss happened in Jonesobrough. And this is how it happened.

About 45 Years Ago...

The Jonesborough Merchants Association was formed in response to the new mall in Johnson City. There was a sort of exodus from the downtown businesses, so the Association worked to keep Main Street alive. The Holiday season was coming, so the Merchants planned a series of promotions to bring people downtown to shop. They started the week before Thanksgiving with a Turkey Toss. Hundreds of Jonesborough folks showed up and gathered around the Courthouse.

The idea was to toss the turkeys from the top of the courthouse. The turkeys would fly to the ground below, and the lucky people who were fast enough to catch the turkeys after they landed would have their Thanksgiving dinner all squared away. The Merchants were not stingy. They weren't tossing one or two turkeys. No, they really wanted to show the Jonesborough folks their appreciation. Dozens of turkeys were brought up there. When the big clock struck one, they began tossing the turkeys to the crowd below...

Wait! Stop! STOP!!

Someone SHOULD Have yelled that.

Someone SHOULD have cried STOP!!!

Now, that's what should have happened. But it didn't. Nobody stopped them. Nobody, say, from the country or the farms had thought to let these city merchants know that

Domesticated Turkeys Don't Fly! - And So Began The Debacle.

jonesborough yarn exchange
jonesborough yarn exchange

Now these were prized turkeys. 25, 30, 40 pounders. And they were falling, dead weight, to the ground below.

Onlookers screamed!

And as the screams of horror filled the air, the merchants, who could not see the carnage below them, thought the crowd was erupting with gleeful excitement, and so they began tossing more and more turkeys off the top of the courthouse.

Brave citizens went out into the foray and tried to save the falling fowl...Without considering the laws of physics. Gravity. Yes, 40 pound objects falling from the sky at 32 feet per second squared is a lot of force coming down.

The lawn was littered with the bodies of dead turkeys and their wounded, would-be rescuers. Husbands grabbed their wives, mothers grabbed their children. Babies grabbed their binkys. Everyone ran for cover until the torrent of turkeys falling from above came to an end.

When it was over, a hush fell across the field. The Merchants looked down from their perch, anticipating a grateful crowd, and instead, witnessed the destruction they had wrought. Police on the scene suspected fowl play. (Sorry, I couldn't resist.)

Across the gizzard-laden grounds, families called to one another, and in their feather covered clothes and hair, they quietly got in their cars, showered the entrails and memories from their bodies, and drove to the Johnson City Mall.

Yes. Honest. This is a True Story.

Does Your Town Have A Thanksgiving Tradition?

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What Kind of Thanksgiving Tradition Does Your Town Have?

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As A Side Note...

There WAS a Second Annual Turkey Toss in Jonesborough

The posters for the event all read "Turkeys will be GIVEN away starting at One O'Clock"

Interested in Mining Your Own Community's Stories? - Whether it is a town, organization, church or school.

For 20 years, Community Performance International has worked with cities, towns, churches, organizations and families, using personal stories to create performance pieces that unite groups across barriers of age, race, economic background and other ideas that serve to separate them. Through our stories, we find our way into each other's lives, discover how much we have in common, and how our very diversities may be the key to whatever solution we may be seeking.

The story on this page came from one such project in Jonesborough, TN, and appeared in their play I AM HOME. If you'd like to see more stories like this, or read more about the work of CPI, please visit this website.

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    • Anthony Altorenna profile image

      Anthony Altorenna 5 years ago from Connecticut

      Ouch! I've heard the story before, but I really like your vivid and colorful descriptions. This is one tradition that does not bear repeating....

    • CNelson01 profile image

      Chuck Nelson 5 years ago from California

      The idea was a turkey and the turkey was a bomb. "Funny" story!

    • profile image

      JoshK47 5 years ago

      Doesn't sound like a particularly good idea... though I did get a laugh at the lens - great work. :)

    • JoyfulReviewer profile image

      JoyfulReviewer 5 years ago

      Glad that tradition was short-lived! Congratulations on your lens being featured on the Fall Harvest Fest monsterboard.