A turkey roaming the halls of Bellbrook High School sounds like madness. But for the last decade or so it’s been a way of life.
The shrieking and laughter that comes from the students when the turkey visits on the final day of class before Thanksgiving reverberate through the cinderblock walls of the school. And that’s just for the teacher in the costume.
Yes, the high school is treated to not one, but two turkeys before Thanksgiving – both living – as a way to unwind before break. It was principal Dave Hann’s idea, bringing it with him from his time in the Urbana school district.
“It’s funny to see these (students) around the turkey,” he said with a chuckle. “They want to pet it, but they really don’t want to.”
The live turkey is only part of the fun. It roams the halls for the final few minutes of the school day and students gather around to take photos, feed it, dance near it and laugh with their friends.
Part of the fun comes from which teacher will be adorning the turkey costume for the entire day. That is determined by donations. Five candidates are chosen each year. Sometimes best friends are pitted against one another.
The teacher who garners the most in donations is the one who has the honor of wearing the turkey. So some teachers, trying to avoid wearing the costume, donate into other teacher’s funds. Students donate as well in an effort to raise money and embarrass their favorite teacher. This year it was Amy Riggs.
“Amy was amazing,” Emma Tompkins, a freshman advisor said. “She really hyped up the kids for it. She really went for it.”
“I’ll happily do it if it raises money for charity,” Riggs said. Riggs was in on the joke, teaching and making slime, hanging with a pilgrim – also a part of the tradition – doing step aerobics and coming face to face with the real turkey to feed her feathered new friend. “The kids love that turkey being there so much.”
Riggs, unsure if being chosen to adorn the costume is a compliment or an insult, said she’s convinced it’s the former, as opposed to the latter.
While it’s not the most flattering costume, Riggs did say at the very least it was surprisingly comfortable, if not a little smelly.
The donations go to a different group each year that is connected with the school or the community.
This year it went to Unverferth House on the Ohio State campus. Unverferth House is a temporary home away from home for heart transplant patients and their families at the OSU Wexner Medical Center. Usually, the turkeys are supplied by Lori Sparks, the former Athletic Department secretary, who raises turkeys with her husband.
This year the turkey was provided by the Shupe family. “I don’t know how he (Hann) got us to buy in that first year,” Pamela Schultz, a freshman advisor who helps run the competition each year, said. “Really he went for the most outgoing teachers – ones he knew would go for it. He’s very creative, though. He has good ideas.”
Who would have imagined a turkey walking down the halls of the high school would be one of them.