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Turkey Trots: Holiday tradition

Former principal Pam Vlach leads the third-grade boys in a turkey dance during the Turkey Trot at Sonora Elementary School on Friday. Maggie Beck / Union Democrat, copyright 2013
 Sonora Elementary School held its 29th annual Turkey Trot on Friday and a group of boys made a heartwarming gesture at the end of the race, befitting the holiday season.

A separate Turkey Trot also was held Friday at Belleview Elementary School.


Sonora’s Turkey Trot is a race around the school for every student between third and eighth grade who wants to participate for a chance to win a turkey — actually a gift card to buy a turkey.

Three boys and three girls from each grade win first, second and third places for gift certificates to help buy Thanksgiving food or treats. 

A drawing is also done to give a chance to win to someone who didn’t necessarily race the fastest.

But this year, the participating eighth grade boys made a selfless gesture with their race rather than try to win. 

The group of about 25 decided — entirely on their own — to hold back their running and let someone win. 

Scott Dugent got first place at 3 minutes, 43 seconds. He was a new student this year and had stated how badly he wanted to win that turkey. 

So the other boys kept pace with him and allowed him to finish first. 

Several teachers cried at the finish line of the final race of the day and Coach Karen Sinclair said “I couldn’t have possibly gotten a better gift than what those boys did — as a teacher and a coach. They really got the idea of the holiday spirit.”

This was the last trot for Sinclair — one of the original founders of the event and honorary turkey. She is retiring at the end of the school year. 

Shortly after it began, a full-size turkey costume was crafted and Sinclair — known as “Coach” to the kids — has worn it ever since, much to their delight. 

“Sonora High School started it,” Sinclair explained, “but we decided we needed one, and it’s just evolved.” 

“The first year of course we gave out an actual turkey,” Sinclair said. “It didn’t go over so well with the bus drivers.” 

Now the event can only operate with cooperation of all of the staff, and much of the community, she said. “Everybody — secretaries, bus drivers — everybody has to be on board.” 

Also, many downtown Sonora business donate money to the event and lately enough extra has come in to make holiday baskets to give to families, Sinclair said. 

The head of the school cafeteria, Sue Maxey, crafted up a turkey costume two years after the event began. The kids delight in seeing “Coach,” usually a straightforward woman, strut her stuff as a big game bird, school employees say. 

About five years ago, Sinclair jokingly told students who were asking her to wear the costume out of season that it had burned up.

“Within 48 hours, Anita Fox made a new one,” Sinclair said. “Now we have two.” Fox was a teacher who has since retired, and her immediate action was just one of many examples of the spirit of people Sinclair has worked with, she said. 

“I’m blessed. Not everybody gets to find a job they love. And I’ve loved every minute. But there comes a time when you’ve got to let the young people take over,” Sinclair said. 

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