The Truth About The Indiana Turkey Toss

Local fairs and festivals are always enjoyable, but the very best kind are the ones that are just plain wild. January kicks off with the Great Fruitcake Toss in Manitou Springs, Colorado. March brings Frozen Dead Guy Days in Nederland, Colorado, and June is when they celebrate the Mike the Headless Chicken Festival in Fruita, Colorado. By now, you're probably wondering what the Centennial State's been smoking, but states not named Colorado also get in on the fun. 

Folks in Laguna Niguel, California, all get together for the annual Mooning of the Amtrak in July and Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin, celebrates Labor Day with the Wisconsin State Cow Chip Throw. Later in September, Point Pleasant, West Virginia, fetes their famous cryptid with an annual Mothman Festival. Of course, October just wouldn't be the same without the Punkin Chunkin competition made famous by Mythbusters.

The one thing that makes these festivities even better is if they can work in some kind of holiday tie-in. Thanksgiving would seem to tailor-made for such quirkiness, but apart from some frozen turkey bowling happening in Newport Beach, California (via Throomers), there really aren't as many strange Thanksgiving traditions as we'd like to see. Back in the day, though, things were different. For a brief period in the 2000s, Bloomington, Indiana, was home to the one and only Flaming Turkey Toss.

What happened at the Flaming Turkey Toss?

Something called a Flaming Turkey Toss might call to mind the infamous "WKRP in Cincinnati" turkey drop, which CBR says was based on a true story. The Turkey Toss, however, wasn't dreamed up by a radio station's PR department. Instead, it started with a group of young friends looking to have some fun over Thanksgiving break.

Per WTHR, the turkey tossers had several techniques, including an Olympic style and a Scottish style. To exhibit his skills with the latter, event organizer Doug Ballard even donned a kilt. Ballard wasn't the only one dressing up for the Turkey Toss, though. The frozen turkeys themselves were garbed in onesies, with the garments being soaked in lighter fluid and then set aflame. The actual tossing was accomplished with the aid of a chain.

Various participants in the Flaming Turkey Toss described it as an almost euphoric experience. One tosser told WTHR it was "just so exciting, having fire rotating around your body." Another said, "Having that flame rotate around your body and the sound and the heat. I don't know, it is like being the center of the universe." Spectators also enjoyed the unique event, with one commenting, "As far as I know, we are the only place in the country and possibly in the world that throws turkeys." Another, less impressed, remarked, "I'd rather eat my turkey, but that's okay."

The last Flaming Turkey Toss took place in 2006

The tradition of tossing flaming turkeys was actually a fairly short-lived one. From 2001 through 2004, frozen turkeys alone were tossed, but it wasn't until 2005 that the frozen turkeys were set aflame. "If you're going to throw a turkey, why not cook it while you're throwing it?" Flaming Turkey Toss organizer Doug Ballard told WTHR. Needless to say, the Butterball Turkey Talk Line does not endorse this cooking method.

Flaming turkeys, it seems, were tossed for just two years, with the last known turkey toss occurring in 2006. The event occurred on November 22 of that year, which was the day before Thanksgiving. Twelve competitors participated in the final Toss, while roughly 60 people watched. The winning throw was 185 feet, 7 inches.

We may never know exactly what happened to put an end to the Flaming Turkey Toss. It's possible that the event organizers simply outgrew the desire to fling flaming turkeys, as WTHR reported. Still, we're guessing that words such as "insurance" and "liability" may have been bandied about, thus influencing the decision to discontinue the annual festivities.