BY SONNY LONG
The 40-year-rein of Frank Sheppard and Katherine Reilly will come to an end in October.
Sheppard and Reilly were the last Sultan Yekrut and Sultana Oreuc crowned at the Turkey Trot Coronation in 1972, before the festival changed to Turkeyfest and the pageant discontinued.
So technically, the pair still reigns over the festival celebrating the 100th anniversary of Turkey Trot this year.
Sheppard, 89, a Cuero attorney, remembered that rainy night in 1972 well.
“The sultan came in early, took a seat and observed the historical pageant being performed,” Sheppard said. “The sultana was in the tent waiting for her cue to come in, at which time a terrible storm broke out. She barely made it to the stage before everything had to be shut down.”
Reilly, 20 at the time of her coronation as Sultana Oreuc, said, “I got drenched. There was a big push to get me out on stage. Then the heavens opened up. The train got wet. Fortunately, it dried out during the parade the next morning.”
The entire costume is a source of pride for Reilly, who still fits in the gown.
“I don’t know what size it is. My mother made it,” she said. “The best part was the preparation, the costuming. It was all done in secret. How you can keep a secret in a town of 7,000 is pretty amazing. But it worked.”
Reilly said the event was a blast.
“It’s just fun. It’s special, especially if you’ve grown up here you’ve heard about it your whole life. It was certainly special and I think quite a compliment,” she said.
Sheppard enjoyed it, too.
“It was lots of fun, I’ll guarantee you that. It was going from morning until night,” he said.
The royalty reigned over the annual event that drew thousands of people to Cuero to see not only the parade of floats, cars and marching bands, but also the parade of turkeys down Cuero streets, an event that has morphed into the Great Gobbler Gallop turkey race between Ruby Begonia and Paycheck from Worthington, Minn.
That tradition will also be coming back in 2012 as part of the special 100th Turkey Trot anniversary as dozens of turkeys have been raised in DeWitt County this spring especially for the downtown parade on Oct. 13.
The celebration will begin Oct. 5 with the Sultan’s Stroll on Main Street. The history of the Turkey Trot will be featured with exhibits beginning in the Cuero Heritage Museum and continuing in the storefronts downtown.
The coronation is scheduled for Oct. 6 at Cuero High School followed by a Sultan’s Ball at the city park.
The 40th annual Cuero Turkeyfest will be Oct. 12-14.
To learn more, visit turkeyfest.org.
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