WRAL.com at the State Fair

56 Years With the Turkey Shoot

Posted October 18, 2007

If you head down to the old midway, you might hear an unexpected sound along with the screams of kids on the rides and the ringing of prize bells. That sound... could it possibly be... a 12 gauge shotgun?

Have no fear. What you're hearing is the longest continuously-running game at the Fair, the Raleigh Jaycees Turkey Shoot. At the Fair for 56 years, the Turkey Shoot allows veteran and newbie shooters alike to plunk down $3 for the chance to win a turkey or a t-shirt. (Contestants shoot at a target. The closest pellet to the target's cross hairs wins.)

This, frankly, amazes me. With all the security scares of recent years, it's astonishing to think that there's a place in the middle of the fairgrounds where someone as young as 12 years old can fire a shotgun. Michele Addison, the Turkey Shoot Chair for the Raleigh Jaycees, and Carter Pettibone, VP of Fundraising, were quick to assure me that lots of precautions are being taken. "The guns are tethered down," Carter said. "They're set so they can only point toward the target. Everybody gets a safety lecture before the shooting, and I collect the shells after the contest. Nobody leaves the building until I get all the shells." (The Turkey Shoot takes place in a permanent building, not a tent or other temporary setup.) In addition to general safety concerns, all contestants are also given eye and ear protection.

There's plenty of interest in the Shoot -- with 12 contestants in a round, there can be between 1400-1700 rounds in a good year (two years ago was the best year ever for the Shoot, Michele said.) That's a lot of turkeys won, but it's also a lot of money collected. The Raleigh Jaycees take the money raised and use it toward a variety of worthy causes, including the NC Jaycee Burn Center at UNC and the Duke Cancer Center. The Raleigh Jaycees, with about 200 members, spend about 2000 man-hours over the course of the Fair setting up and running the Shoot.

So how's the shooting this year? "We had a first-time shooter earlier this week," Michele said. "They'd never shot a gun before. They won!" Michele also noted that kids are shooting pretty well this year, with plenty of winners. "Of course, we get people coming in who've been playing in the Shoot for over 20 years. For some people it's almost a family tradition."

A tradition that's even proving more attractive than video games? I asked Carter if the Turkey Shoot was still proving more attractive, than, say, an Xbox 360, and he grinned. "Oh yes," he said. "Kids come up and say, I get to fire a shotgun?"

You can learn more about the Raleigh Jaycees and its other projects at http://www.raleighjaycees.org/.


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