"Pageant of ridiculousness"

Turkeys stampede their way into fairgoers hearts

When I graduated from California Lutheran University with a $100,000-plus degree in communications, I did not expect to be covering turkey races, but I’m glad I did.

Nancy Riegler and her husband brought their show, “The Wild West Turkey Stampede” to the Mid-State Fair for the first time this year, and I imagine they will be back in the future. The show was perfect in every way: it was quirky, funny, silly and had just enough redneck flavor to make me feel right at home. In the words of the show’s host, “It’s a grand pageant of ridiculousness.”

Riegler and her husband are veteran entertainers who have been on the California fair circuit for years and have brought multiple shows to the Mid-State Fair.

“My husband, Cowboy Gil, and I are the premiere turkey racing entity in the United States and the World really because nobody else does this,” she said.

The show embraces the lunacy and madness that comes with a show that races turkeys and together they have created something hilarious for all ages.

“Its funny and it’s fun,” Riegler said. “And I’ve been part of California fairs for about 25 years and I’ve done all kinds of different things for fairs, yet the turkey races is the thing that no matter how many times I’ve done this show — and I think it’s going on millions — I can’t not watch them and laugh every time. I have remind myself to look up and see what the audience is doing. Then when I do, that’s even funnier because you see adults leaning over like they have to use the restroom because they are laughing so hard.”

The arena was draped in red, white, blue and featured giant pictures of turkeys. Riegler, who hosts the show with her husband, has an aura about her that is unmistakable. Her energy and gleeful demeanor instantly awakened the sleepy sweat-soaked crowd from the second she grabbed the microphone.

The fun of the show starts immediately as the galloping gobblers are escorted out of their air conditioned living chambers into the ring by a big red, remote controlled monster truck. Once the birds are corralled into a small cage, the remote control truck bed is filled with food.

The show featured three different turkey races, the last one being the crown jewel. Riegler yelled “go!” as wheels on the miniature monster truck began to burn out in the wood shavings, and the birds were released. All of the turkeys began chasing after the truck, one giant, clawed stride at a time. The crowd was howling with laughter with each lap the turkeys made.

I can’t remember if any of the turkeys won any of the races (nobody really keeps track), and I think that is the genius of Riegler show because, in the end, the audience is the real winner. Turkey races take place every day of the fair in the Rancho Frontier area and I highly recommend it to anyone that doesn’t take themselves too seriously.

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