Flap sees festival cancel turkey drops
LITTLE ROCK The longtime sponsor of a northern Arkansas festival that included dropping live turkeys from a low-flying airplane to crowds below says it will no longer organise or promote the annual gathering.
Yellville Chamber of Commerce board member Lesley Edmonds said a flap had continued since the 72nd Annual Turkey Trot last October. She didn’t know whether other organisers might come forward.
‘‘For many years, we have enjoyed the days of a familyfriendly festival that served as a homecoming; an occasion every fall to gather and enjoy a parade, live music, crafts, festival food, and camaraderie,’’ the board said in a statement posted on its Facebook page. ‘‘We feel we can no longer deliver the same experience.’’
The tradition of a ‘‘Phantom Pilot’’ dropping live turkeys began 50 years ago, but protests had mounted in recent years.
‘‘Our goal is to help our local businesses grow, and the festival has been more detrimental to them than prosperous,’’ the board said.
The US Federal Aviation Administration has investigated but said the pilot was not running foul of aviation rules.
Regardless of whether any laws were broken, animal rights activists wanted the turkey drops stopped.
Gene Baur, the president of Farm Sanctuary, said: ‘‘Dropping birds out of an airplane is unacceptable and outside the norms of society.’’
Baur’s group said it had taken in four birds that survived last year’s fall.
Arkansas is one of the nation’s top turkey-producing states. AP