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Playing with food: Laramie carries on turkey curling tradition for charity

Rebecca Martinez

Curling has developed a competitive following in Laramie in recent years… but the age-old winter sport has developed a softer, sillier side once a year to benefit local charities. Wyoming Public Radio’s Senior Poultry correspondent Rebecca Martinez attended the town’s annual Turkey Curling tournament last weekend and filed this postcard.

REBECCA MARTINEZ: Turkey curling is ridiculous, in a really fun way.

(Ambi: “Yeah, baby!”) (Ambi: Curling sounds)

Laura Tangemen of Laramie Parks and Recreation organized the tournament at the Laramie Ice and Events Center this year and explains how it works.

LAURA TANGEMAN: It’s a lot like typical curling, the different being that we use turkeys rather than stones. But basically, you slide your turkey down to the other end. The little target at the end is called a house. So you try to slide your turkey into the house and the teams that get the most turkeys in there are the ones with the most points and they’re the ones that move on.

MARTINEZ: It’s a light-hearted event. Teams tend to dress up in costume and play under turkey- or Thanksgiving themed names. My team was called The Gravy Train, and we wore disco era costumes. Also, we weren’t very good. We tied for last place. That’s because there’s a delicate art to calibrating the exact direction and force to push a frozen turkey that’s been duct-taped to a Frisbee so it lands exactly over the target on the other side of the ice rink. Even when my teammates brushed the ice vigorously ahead of the bird to speed it up, mine never made it into the house.

(AMBI: “Swab the turkey! Knock its wings off, make it roll!”)

A team elaborately dressed as pirates who called themselves the Clucker Chuckers completely schooled some of the girls from my roller derby team later in the day. Their ring leader, who introduced himself as Captain David Henry, gave me a few pointers.

DAVID HENRY: A smooth slide out of the hack. Releasing the turkey with a little bit of turn. You always want to turn your turkey, that way it bastes even on each side. And you aim for about three-quarters of the way down, and then you put your swab crew to the work and make them swab it into the house. That’s where we score.

MARTINEZ: The not-so-secret purpose of the event is that it’s a food drive. The non-profit Friends of Community Recreation buys the turkeys, which are donated to charity afterward.

SUE DUNNEBECKE: And people are sometimes skeptical, like “you use the tukeys?” And I remind them that they’ve been on Frisbees and on ice and they’re very carefully tended.

MARTINEZ: That’s Sue Dunnebecke, who runs the Eppson Center’s community Thanksgiving dinner, one of the recipients of the turkey curling food drive. The center serves Laramie’s Senior Citizen Community. They also receive the non-perishable food items turkey curling participants and spectators brought as an admission fee.

DUNNEBECKE: It was a lot of food. Let’s say six big boxes of miscellaneous good food for needy people.

Dunnebecke says anyone at all is invited to the Eppson Center in Laramie for a free Thanksgiving meal from 11-1 on Thursday. At 1 p.m., they’ll distribute the nonperishable food items to anyone who needs them. Meals on Wheels will also deliver Thanksgiving dinners to shut-ins if they’re requested in advance.

For Wyoming Public Radio, I’m Rebecca Martinez.