Fred and Flo MacLean relaxed with their son Dan outside the Tapply-Thompson Community Center last week after looking back over 40 years of the Turkey Trot in Bridgewater that they first started. (Photo by Donna Rhodes) (click for larger version)
November 24, 2021BRIDGEWATER — This year marked the 40th year of the Turkey Trot at Newfound Country Store, and originators Fred and Flo MacLean were proud to see a family tradition turn into one that lives on through the Newfound Region still today.
Flo said each year, her family of nine children would always take a walk along Whittemore Point each Thanksgiving Day. It wasn't long before friends and neighbors spoke up to say it would be wonderful if more could join in the tradition.
As owners of Newfound Market (now doing business as Newfound Country Store) from 1979 until 1986, Fred thought that was a great idea. He saw it as a means to promote his business and encourage people to shop there for their holiday needs. His wife saw t as a means of families having fun together. Hearing of other Turkey Trot walks over the holiday, the couple then took on the name and started a Turkey Trot of their own in Bridgewater in November of 1982.
In the first year, the MacLeans only asked people to sign up to join their family for the walk along Whittemore Point and perhaps consider a donation for the weekly Bristol Community Dinners, which Flo helped to coordinate.
"We got a lot of canned foods and things that didn't really help for a dinner of that size though," she recalled.
Leading into the next year, the couple was approached by Doug Voebel who ran the D.A.R.E. program in the Newfound Area School District and things changed from there.
"People paid a fee to join the Turkey Trot that year and all proceeds went to the D.A.R.E. program," the couple said.
Voebel even designed special participation tee shirts with names of sponsors he was able to sign on to the cause, gathered some raffle prizes and the idea of serving the community took off from there.
"Everyone was eligible to win a prize just by signing up," said Fred. "You didn't have to be the fastest runner or have the prettiest shorts to win."
In fact, while runners were certainly welcomed, many people joined the Turkey Trot in the tradition of the MacLean family- walking, pushing baby strollers and giving their dogs some exercise as they worked up an appetite for Thanksgiving dinner.
"It was all very casual," Flo said.
Considering the runners however, for a few years Leslie Dion of Tapply-Thompson Community Center timed them so they knew how well they had done on the course.
Perhaps what pleases the MacLean family most today though is seeing the camaraderie and casual family atmosphere continue.
Dan MacLean, now Assistant Director of Recreation at Tapply-Thompson Community Center said it's fun to see families year after year take part in the Turkey Trot, whether they be running, jogging, pushing strollers or walking their pets. Costumes and funny hats also lend an atmosphere of fun to the event, too.
"It's really neat to see some of the same people year after year," he said.
Since its inception 40 years ago, there has been a typical crowd of 100 or more participants each Thanksgiving morning, although some years of inclement weather have lowered that number from time to time.
When the MacLeans sold the business to their son Keith in 1986 he maintained the traditional Turkey Trot each year. Peter Hart then took over the store for a couple of years and did the same until Holly Kerouac bought the store and property in 2005.
Respecting and appreciating its traditional role in the community, for the last 17 years Kerouac has also continued the Turkey Trot, using it for many years as a means to help local families in need.
For 2021 she has collaborated with TTCC to not only help coordinate the Turkey Trot, but assist her staff in ways to help others in the community. Together they have formed a Turkey Trot Committee and made it easy for people to pre-register for the event online through the TTCC web site or the Newfound Country Store Facebook Page.
This year Newfound Country Store will be using donations from the holiday trot to prepare food baskets for local families in need. The remainder of the proceeds will then go to TTCC. A small Christmas tree for holiday wishes from local children will also be set up inside the store where people can choose a tag then buy items on the list that can then be dropped off at Newfound Country Store.
"There's already a local Santa Fund for gifts and over the past few years there have been less and less people signing up for donations, so anything beyond what we need for food baskets will now go toward helping programs at the community center," said Kerouac.
After 40 years, it still makes Fred and Flo smile to know that what started as their traditional family walk each Thanksgiving is still helping others.