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13 WTHR Indianapolis | Indianapolis Local News & Weather

Turkey toss is unique Thanksgiving celebration

WTHR.com is the news leader for Indianapolis and Central Indiana. Get the best news, weather, sports and traffic information from Channel 13.
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Stephanie Soviar/Eyewitness News

Indianapolis - On Thursday, the nation celebrates Thanksgiving with a number of holiday traditions, including turkey and football. But a group of Hoosiers found a way to turn part of the holiday meal into a sporting event: They make turkeys fly.

The humble turkey is the centerpiece of holiday meals and the plot in some Hollywood classics like Christmas Vacation and A Christmas Story. Doug Ballard and some elite athletes dress their holiday bird in attire different from the usual stuffing and fixings.

Ballard slips a baby's onesie over his turkey, douses lighter fluid on it and sets it on fire. And then, with the help of a chain, he launches it across a football field. The sight of the flaming turkey streaking through the air is quite impressive. To say the least.

There are styles to the flaming turkey toss: there is the Scottish, and then there is the Olympic. Ballard, who dons a kilt for the event, prefers the Highland style. The same turkey is used for each toss.

After the pros took their turns, the guys gave me a shot a turkey tossing. But first I had to practice without the flames. I managed to launch it about five feet - and in heels, no less. Then it was time for the moment of truth. Without the heels, I tossed the flaming turkey - not far, but I did it.

"My mom and dad - I was brought up properly, but when you can play with your food, go for it," Ballard said.

Ballard and his friends have been tossing turkeys for five years, but the holiday tradition just caught on fire last year. "If you're going to throw a turkey why not cook it while you're throwing it?" he mused.

The Flaming Turkey Toss is Wednesday night at 5:30 PM on Bloomington South High School's Football field. Ballard says this year there are 12 competitors from seven different colleges.