Turkey Trot in Yellville, Arkansas – A Time-Honored Tradition
The term Turkey Trot is not just a dance that our great-grandparents used to do. It is the name given to a charming festival held annually in a small section of the Ozarks known as Yellville, Arkansas.
In the fall of the year, as the leaves turn to yellow, gold, and russet in the charming Ozarks village of Yellville, Arkansas, thoughts turn to turkeys, folk music, great food, parades, pageants, and gatherings of family and friends.
Turkey Trot in Yellville, Arkansas has become a pyramid of perspectives. One side of the pyramid is the perspective of the natives of Yellville, Arkansas who look forward to this festival each year as a homecoming. Family members who call Yellville, Arkansas home, but have moved away, make an annual pilgrimage back “home” to reconnect with their roots.
The second side of the pyramid is that of the non-native residents of Yellville, Arkansas. This author would be included in such a group, although it should be stressed that, having lived in Yellville for 25+ years, I cannot imagine ever living anywhere else. My reaction when attending my very first Turkey Trot Festival was one of awe and delight!
To fully understand the impact of one’s first Turkey Trot experience, one would have to have a basic concept of the town of Yellville. It is, like many other small towns in rural America, a collection of shops, offices, restaurants, and markets in which the “hub” of the town is centered around the town square. Being the county seat of Marion County, Arkansas, the courthouse is situated in the center of the town square.
When the second week-end in October rolls around, the town square in Yellville is cordoned off from vehicle traffic on three sides and booths are set up, a stage is erected at one of the closed intersections, and the fun begins. My initial sense of awe was derived from the fact that store and shop owners around the square were happy to close their businesses for two days, and forfeit sales revenue, in favor of celebrating the festival.
When that second week-end of October rolls around, classes at the Yellville-Summit School District dismiss at noon and the Y-S High School Panther Band kicks off the festival by performing at this time. A large congregation of students walk from school to the town square in eager anticipation of the fun, food, and festitivies. The smiles, giggles, and laughter heard from these youngsters is very contagious to others who may be en route to the festival as well.
And finally, the third side to the pyramid is one that isn’t particularly enjoyable to talk about, but is pervasive enough to merit a brief mention. Commencing in the late 1980’s from an article in the “National Enquirer”, some well-meaning but ill-informed people have asserted that one of the most beloved traditions of Turkey Trot in Yellville, Arkansas is a practice of animal cruelty. This is discussed in more detail in my blog, but I would like to very emphatically state that this accusation is absolutely not true.
So, if you have never attended a Turkey Trot Festival in Yellville, Arkansas, treat yourself to a trip to this charming town and sample the flavors and hospitality of the Ozarks!