There was standing room only at the Sebago Turkey Shoot in Mud City on Friday night. Townspeople and neighbors came from miles around for a chance to win prizes and cash at this annual event that raises funds for local charity work.
The Sebago Turkey Shoot is the brainchild of Lisa Hutchins and Chris Barbour. They were tossing around ideas to raise money for fire works at Sebago Days. They had both gone to the Denmark Lions annual casino night fundraisers and thought that a similar event could work in Sebago. "We need to do something different to make it unique." Lisa thought. "How about if we recruit some of our lady friends to run the games instead of the men?" Chris suggested "that will really draw the crowds!"
That was three years ago, and they were able to convince a dozen of their lady friends to join them in putting on a "Sebago Turkey Shoot" fundraiser. Local Sebago women dress up in black shorts or short skirts with white blouses revealing a daring bit of cleavage, and pitch in. They sell raffle tickets and run games of chance with equipment borrowed from the Denmark Lions Club. One big draw is the wheel of chance that Chris and Lisa run. For $4 players purchase numbered wooden paddles for a chance to win large packages of prime beef , pork roasts, or of course, frozen turkeys . Dave Hutchins from Hutch's Market carves cut the winners' prizes into steaks and chops right on the spot.
A friend asked me if I were going to the first Sebago Turkey Shoot. I had seen the signs up around town. "I am a little confused," I said. "According to the notices, this is going to be held at the old Town Hall. How can they shoot guns in there?" I remember going to turkey shoots when I was in Texas, and they were always held at a shooting range, or a trap or skeet range.
"No, you've got it all wrong," my friend replied. "There is no shooting at this turkey shoot - it is all games of chance and raffles." And so I went and had a great time.
Turkey shoots have been part of our American culture since colonial times as a community shooting competition. Originally live turkeys were used as targets, but paper targets have replaced live birds and the turkeys at the shoots nowadays are frozen prizes, not alive. Turkey shoots are held all over the country and are still usually contests of shooting skills. The most common turkey shoots involve paper targets and shotguns, but contests are also held on skeet or trap ranges, with rifles, black powder, archery, or even paintball guns. There are contests of skill on the golf course, basketball court, or disc golf courses. There has been a trend to hold turkey shoots involving games of chance and raffles, and this is the variation that the ladies of Sebago have chosen.
The Sebago event is a chance to meet and greet your friends and neighbors. The crowd is good natured and moves back and forth between the games of chance and the raffle tables. When the meat is all gone, the raffles begin with items donated by local merchants, plus a huge basket of liquor and a rifle.
I wasn't so lucky as a winner this year. Having failed to win one of the turkeys or pieces of meat at the meat wheel, the rifle, or the liquor basket, my only prize of the night was a basket of bath towels from the raffle. They were nice quality towels, but we really don't need any at the house. So I sought out other winners to see if I could swap prizes. Betty Tinkham had won a huge pink stuffed rabbit. "Would you like to swap your pink rabbit for this nice basket of towels?" I asked.
There wasn't a moment's hesitation. "You've got a deal" she said, handing me the rabbit. I didn't really need a big pink bunny either, but I did know a little child up the road who didn't have one, and brought it with me to the party after the turkey shoot as a hostess present. The party after the turkey shoot? Well, that is another story for another time.
The Sebago Turkey Shoot is unique - it is an event that takes place without any formal organization or officers. The ad-hoc group of motivated women plans the event every year, solicit donations from merchants, buy the prizes, sell the tickets and do the advertising. That in itself speaks volumes about the power of dedicated volunteers.
Profits the first year were $1,600, which helped reduce the amount of town funding needed for the Sebago Days fire works. Last year the turkey shoot raised $2,700, which went towards the Sebago Elementary School playground fund. This year was the most successful of all, with more than $3,100 raised. As an acknowledgement of the origin of turkey shoots, one of the main Sebago prizes is always a rifle. The lucky winner of this year's prize, a Remington model 7600 .308 rifle with scope, bought his ticket while he was ice fishing on Sebago Lake from a persistent turkey shoot salesperson. The rifle raffle alone netted $800 for the fundraiser.
Sebago Turkey Shoot proceeds this year will go to the Sebago Lions Club for their several charities. The Club is the official sponsor of the Turkey Shoot. This year they are providing four scholarships for deserving college-bound students, and the turkey shoot contribution will be much appreciated.
What began as an idea with two community-minded women has developed into a successful fundraiser with a devoted following. If you have never been to a Sebago Turkey Shoot, try and do so next year. It is a worthy cause as well as a vibrant and fun community social event.
This article was edited and published in the Neighbors Section of the Portland Press Herald on April 1, 2004 under the title "Turkey shoot offers fun for a good cause".
Photos by Allen Crabtree