Turkey Trot

By: Diana J. Kleiner

Type: General Entry

Published: 1976

Updated: August 1, 1995

The Turkey Trot at Cuero, Texas, more recently known as Turkeyfest, began in 1912 after northern traveling salesmen expressed interest in watching droves of turkeys being driven on foot to the Cuero market each November. Turkey buyers drove flocks of birds into Cuero after buying them from outlying farms. The idea is attributed to J. C. Howerton, publisher of the Cuero Record. Turkey raising began on a large scale on DeWitt County farms after a turkey dressing house opened in the community in 1908 and has continued to be one of the top revenues for the county. Members of the local chamber of commerce, wishing to advertise South Texas turkeys and encourage turkey raising, organized the Cuero Fair and Turkey Trot Association and planned the first turkey drive down the city's main streets at the opening of the fall marketing season. The event, named for the popular "turkey trot" dance of the period, eventually witnessed as many as 20,000 live turkeys in a single drive. In the thirteenth Turkey Trot, in 1967, some 3,000 turkeys walked in the parade down several blocks of Esplanade and Main streets in Cuero, but after large numbers of the broad-breasted feedlot turkeys collapsed, the event was thought to be impractical, and a seven-county South Texas Livestock Show was inaugurated. As part of Cuero's centennial in 1972, the Turkey Trot was revived, and the fourteenth celebration was held October 20–23 with hardy range-raised turkeys used in the parade. In 1973 the Turkey Trot became "Turkeyfest," an event that offered a parade, arts and crafts show, food booths featuring South Texas cooking, a Miss Turkeyfest beauty pageant, and a "Great Gobbler Gallop," an annual race between prize turkeys from Worthington, Minnesota, and Cuero, Texas. The competition developed after a newspaper editor from Worthington claimed his town, not Cuero, was the world's turkey capital. Contestants receive traditional names, Ruby Begonia for the Texas entry and Paycheck for the northern contender, and vie for the title of World's Fastest Turkey. Winners of the gallop average the best distance in two heats, one in each city over a two-year period. Turkeyfest is held each October at Cuero.

Austin American, November 12, 1940. San Antonio Express, March 4, 1934, August 9, 1954. Texas Star, October 15, 1972. Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin (Cuero, Texas).

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Diana J. Kleiner, “Turkey Trot,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 27, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/turkey-trot.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

August 1, 1995