Looking ahead to the 2019 'Turkey Fumble'
In 2016, a quirky tradition was born on the streets of Newberg. A horde of runners chased after a man in a turkey costume along the route of a 5K race, ushering in the era of the "Turkey Fumble."
George Fox University graduate Brady Mordhorst started the event, now in its fourth year, after he discovered there wasn't a Thanksgiving fun run event locally to benefit a food bank. Mordhorst decided to start the Turkey Fumble with the help of his wife and other local organizers, with proceeds going toward Newberg FISH, an emergency food bank.
"I had just graduated from grad school in Los Angeles and moved back to Newberg," Mordhorst said. "I went to George Fox and grew up outside of Dayton, so Newberg was always familiar for me.
"I had just started a career organizing events, so I figured this could be good practice for that. My wife and I came together and brought in people from around Newberg to organize the event, and we had almost 100 runners the first year and raised $2,100 for Newberg FISH along with 230 pounds of food."
The origins of the name and backstory for the event are whimsical. Mordhorst created a "turkey thief" character that fictionally goes around to people's houses before Thanksgiving and steals their footballs. Families aren't able to play their annual Thanksgiving football games without them, so it's up to the runners in the annual race to chase down the mischievous turkey – portrayed by one of the organizers – and force him to fumble.
All runners in the Turkey Fumble pick up a football from a pile once the turkey character is caught and run with it the remainder of the race, participating in football-related challenges along the way and after the finish line. It's not an event strictly for the football-inclined, though.
"I've never seen anyone over the last few years with a ton of football skill," Mordhorst said with a laugh. "It's all people who don't play football and are just there to have fun. A few kids and dads have been successful, but most are not, and that's okay."
Families from all over town and the surrounding region have attended previous Turkey Fumble races, and anyone interested can sign up at www.thegreatturkeyfumble.com. The race begins at 8:45 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day at Newberg High School's Loran Douglas Field. Runners are encouraged to show up about 25 minutes early to sign in and get their runner's bib.
The cost – which includes a t-shirt and free football – is $23 for adults and $16 for kids. After Oct. 1, that price increased to $26 for adults and $18 for kids. Sign-ups after Nov. 1 are $29 and $20, respectively.
The goal for this year is to pool together more than $10,000 from signup fees, sponsorship dollars from local businesses and other donations. Mordhorst said organizers expect to cross over that $10,000 threshold "very soon," but emphasized that the money raised is just as important is bringing together the community around a common cause: helping out the food bank in a fun way.
"We want this event to grow beyond just a fundraiser," Mordhorst said. "We want it to be a community event where everyone can come together on Thanksgiving and celebrate with each other on the holiday.
"It's family-friendly and there is no requirement to have any sort of football skill. It's just an opportunity for people to come together and support Newberg FISH. They serve tons of people in the community and any help we can provide is crucial."
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