Ruby Begonia headed to Worthington, Minn., Tuesday with a friend to calm her nerves ahead of the first leg of the Great Gobbler Gallop.
“She has a travel companion, so she doesn’t get lonely and to keep her in good spirits,” said Kenneth Schley, the captain of Cuero’s racing team.
Ruby Begonia, who was selected in mid-August, will compete against Worthington’s Paycheck at 1:30 p.m. Saturday in downtown Worthington during the city’s King Turkey Day festival. The times for the first leg of the birds’ gallop will be added to their times at Cuero’s Turkeyfest, which is scheduled for Oct. 10-13.
The team with the best combined time will determine this year’s “Turkey Capital of the World.”
Schley, along with his two teammates, James Rath and Clayton Lantz, have been rigorously training Ruby Begonia for the race.
“I think she is going to do just fine,” Schley said. “We bought her a new pair of running shoes, so she should run instead of walk this time. I think we had the wrong pair of shoes when she did the tryouts.”
During the selection process, Ruby Begonia strolled to the finish line but was just fast enough to beat another bird considered for the title. All of Cuero’s Rio Grande wild turkeys selected to run the great race have been raised by Cory Thamm for more than a decade.
Schley said Ruby Begonia looks like a winner, but rain showers have made recent training difficult because she gets “preoccupied watching the rain.” He is hoping for better, cooler weather in Minnesota, he said.
As of Wednesday, thunderstorms and an 80% chance of rain were in the forecast for Worthington on Thursday, but the skies were expected to clear well before the gallop, according to the National Weather Service. Sunny skies with a high of 68 degrees were expected Friday, with clear skies and a low of 53 degrees that night.
Sunny skies were also forecast on Saturday, with a high near 79 degrees. There was a 30% of rain and thunderstorms that night, with a low of 58 degrees.
Worthington’s King Turkey Day festival dates back to 1938, while Cuero’s Turkeyfest is a product of turkey trots that started in 1912.
The sister towns started competing in 1973, a year after Cuero held its last turkey trot amid a fading turkey industry. Both town’s newspaper editors got together and decided they ought to settle which town is the “Turkey Capital of the World” with an annual competition between Paycheck and Ruby Begonia, and thus the race was born.
Rath, who served as last year’s team captain and is a handler this year, said he is confident Ruby Begonia will race “fast and straight.” The Cuero native has been to Worthington five times for King Turkey Day and looks forward to familiar faces.
“It is all about friends and fellowship,” he said.
Worthington has a slew of events planned for Cuero visitors, including a mixer, parties and breakfast with the mayor during the three-day festival. While the race team looks forward to celebrations with the community, they remain focused on their mission.
“We’re coming to get our trophy,” Schley said.