Cuero's turkey tradition is in its 45th year

Ismael Perez By Ismael Perez

Oct. 11, 2017 at 10:21 p.m.
Updated Oct. 12, 2017 at 11:30 a.m.

Ruby Begonia

Ruby Begonia   Angela Piazza for The Victoria Advocate

Thousands of people will be eyeing turkey legs this weekend at an annual festival in Cuero.

But instead of sitting hot in a barbecue pit, these specific turkey legs will be running down the street for a chance to bring honor to their town.

The 45th annual Turkeyfest will begin with early festivities Thursday but will officially kick off Friday with arts and crafts, commercial vendors and live music entertainment.

The Great Gobbler Gallop is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Saturday.

"It's all about family and tradition; that is how we have continued the festival for 45 years," said Kristie Tieken, a Cuero Turkeyfest official. "We have an average of about 8,000 to 10,000 who come out each year."

Old favorites will be returning to the festival such as magicians, balloon artists and the IBCA barbecue cook-off which has more than 50 registered teams.

Tieken said new to the festival this year is The Duke - a John Wayne look-a-like contest Saturday and a turkey egg hunt on Sunday.

The entertainment lineup for Friday includes the Chad Cooke Band, Zane Williams and Aaron Watson.

For Saturday, the Scott Taylor Band, Zack Walther Band, Shenandoah, Mike and the Moonpies and Jon Wolfe will take the stage at the festival.

The city is continuing a tradition that started in 1973 when Worthington, Minn., challenged Cuero to a turkey race to see which city was truly the "Turkey Capital of the World."

Thousands line up to see the race.

"We have a wonderful festival here that people like, but the highlight of it is always the turkey race," said Keith Goebel, turkey team captain. "We go all out racing the turkey. Makes you wonder why we are chasing the turkey and it's not chasing us."

Turkeyfest is organized by 21 board members made up of volunteers from various backgrounds such as local business owners, teachers and bankers.

Goebel said each board member gets to be part of they Ruby Begonia team for two years.

This is his second year on the team, but he has been attending the festival on and off since it started.

"Becoming captain wasn't a life goal, but I am enjoying doing it," Goebel said.

The 2017 Ruby Begonia Race Team is made up of Goebel, Denise Goebel, Angie Cuellar and Jimmy Martin.

Thirty-nine people from Worthington, along with Paycheck, will arrive in Cuero on Thursday.

Paycheck won last year's race and won the first half of this year's race Sept. 16 in Worthington.

Paycheck crossed the finish line in one minute, 42.65 seconds, defeating Ruby Begonia who clocked a four minute, 30.65 second time.

Ruby Begonia was ahead at the beginning of the race but then ran off into the crowd.

"We did some window shopping and couldn't get the bird off the sidewalk," he said.

Ruby actually crossed the finish line in two minutes, 11.05 seconds, but 22 five-second touching penalties and a two-minute carrying penalty really added up against the team during the first leg of the annual race.

Goebel said the race has been a friendly challenge since Turkeyfest started 45 years ago, but the prize is always bragging rights.

The victory, however, always depends on the turkeys.

"They are going to come in with the lead, but we are trying to see what we can do," Goebel said. "Our bird was definitely faster, we just have to keep her in line. But, she is a turkey, and they do whatever they want."



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