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Turkey Trot tradition ushers in the holidays

Oh, how bittersweet it is! The devoted and hardworking Turkey Trot organizers take a break after the race before awarding the raffle prizes. Thank you and congratulations to retiring Turkey Trot committee members Rose, Colleen and Kathy, who are now turning the task over to the Bridgewater Fire Department after many, many years of volunteer service on Thanksgiving Day and all year long. (Marcia Morris) (click for larger version)
November 30, 2011
BRIDGEWATER—Most of us don't think of November as the highlight of the year on Newfound Lake. But for those hardcore locals who celebrate homecoming for the holidays in the Newfound Region, Bridgewater on Thanksgiving is the only place to be.

It all starts out maybe a little too early in the morning on Thanksgiving Day, when coffee starts brewing at the hometown hangout, Newfound Grocery, and owners Holly and Craig Hall begin welcoming sleepy eyed volunteers to the store to begin setting up for one of the biggest events of the year.

Holly and Craig are not the only ones who give up at least half of their holiday to help out. A team of dedicated organizers, including local Fire and Rescue Department personnel, show up faithfully to welcome the crowds to the annual Thanksgiving Turkey Trot fundraising race and raffle for the community.

Regardless of the weather, by 9 a.m. sharp, a large and, frankly, motley looking crew of community members has arrived, lining up at the start of the "race" to receive this year's official limited edition Turkey Trot T-shirt, and prepare to take the run/jog/walk/crawl around the Whittemore Point loop with a hundred or so of their best friends and closest neighbors (from near and far).

The Divelbiss and friends Turkey Trot team is a case in point. This year, two team members, Stephanie Bednaz and her running partner, Mark Givens, actually ran the "race," while fellow comrades Christina and Gary Divelbiss, Kathy Bird, and Margie King shuffled along after at a slower, more casual pace. After all, the veteran Turkey Trotters are getting along in years. They have earned the right to amble along at a "dog-walking" pace. After all, the dogs are a huge part of glamour of the day.

"Some people stay home and watch the national kennel show on T.V.," said Margie King. "We come out to the Turkey Trop and get the real thing. There is always just about every breed of dog you can imagine taking part in the Trot."

"We all grew up together, and are neighbors here in Bridgewater," explains Christina Divelbiss. "We have all been doing this now every year for well over 20 years…which is pretty amazing, considering we are all only about 25 years old!"

After the event, the Divelbiss Turkey Trot team all gathered together to share a Thanksgiving meal at one of their homes, as long as Givens has plowed the driveway high up on Bridgewater Mountain — an unexpected task this year!

"One of the interesting things about this event is the weather," says Christina Divelbiss. "Sometimes, we are in shorts. Sometimes we have snow, sleet or rain. Actually, it is pretty unique to have this much snow on the ground, but we did the Trot in a snowstorm one year. We do it every year, but it is always a different experience."

"A large part of the experience for me is complaining about the weather," chimed in Gary Divelbiss. "We complain about getting out of bed so early in the morning, we complain about the weather. It is a huge part of the experience. And then we have a lot of laughs and a lot of fun. It is a tradition."

"This event is important because it always supports a good local cause," says Christina. It's good, healthy exercise. It's social, which is good for your mind. We do a lot of catching up with people from around town that we haven't seen for a while. It's the last major event before everyone goes into hibernation for the winter. And then, we can eat a big meal, with pie, and don't have to feel guilty."

The holiday, after all, is about giving thanks by giving back, and each year, the Turkey Trot raises money for a worthy cause in the community. In past years, the event has raised money to support community members who have lost a home to fire, or needed renovation or repair to accommodate an elderly member.

This year, the proceeds went to support the Secret Santa Fund at the Bridgewater Hebron School. Contributions are still coming in, but so far, the event raised $1,960 for the kids.

In addition, participants all earn their turkey dinner later in the day. It is a longstanding tradition in these parts, begun by the legendary health and community conscious MacLean family years ago, and sponsored this year by Speare Memorial Hospital, amongst many others.

While the Turkey Trot is more of a cooperative than a competitive sporting event, it is worth noting that Brendan Collins, Dave Chorney and Chris Plankey came across the finish line first this year with a "winning" time of approximately 18:15 or so, but who is counting? They weren't entirely sure, since their watches weren't perfectly synchronized. But the three friends can be truthfully said to have led the many winners to victory this Thanksgiving Day in Bridgewater.

Thanks and congratulations also go out to retiring Turkey Trot organizers Rose, Colleen and Kathy, who are turning the task over to others after this year's successful event. It's is time for them to kick back and enjoy a slower pace for the holiday season, with family and friends… though we do expect to see them actually out walking, if not running, this time next year. Volunteers are needed to step into their shoes to start planning next year's event!

In any event, each year, Thanksgiving Day in Bridgewater starts sportingly, by giving back to the community, as is befitting the holiday. And then, as the day comes to a close and the sun sets over Newfound Lake, the Inn on Newfound Lake ushers in the season of cheer with the lighting of thousands upon countless thousands of tiny colored lights illuminating the shoreline restaurant, tavern and Inn as dusk settles in. Happy holidays.

Martin Lord Osman
Salmon Press
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