In 1975, YMCA Turkey Trot organizers struck a traffic-stopping deal and employed the first “rodeo-style” finish. Registrants paid $3.50 and had to submit a hand-written training schedule.  

November 27, 1975 was a breezy, chilly Thanksgiving at White Rock Lake, one of only two in NFL history that the Cowboys would not play. No matter, there was another sport on the minds of Dallas athletes that morning.

The Turkey Trot—an 8-mile footrace that would begin and end at Winfrey Point and wind along East Lawther Road.

Wait, say you. Isn’t the Turkey Trot at Dallas City Hall? A few years later it would be, once it became too popular to fit at the lake.

But in 1975, about 650 entrants would pay $3.50 ($4.50 if they failed to mail in registration documents by the Monday cutoff). With their application, they would also need to submit “a written schedule of their training activities for the past six months.”

Trophies would go to runners in several categories — varying age demographics, husband-wife team, mother-daughter teams, oldest man and oldest woman and etcetera on and on. Every finisher would receive a patch.

The Trot’s first official year was 1968, and this was its first at Winfrey Point, having relocated from the Bath House Cultural Center.

According to a letter from race director Denis Adams with the YMCA in 1975, they were aiming for minimum 550 participants that year.

It was the first time the City of Dallas allowed traffic to stop for the race.

City archivist John Slate provided us with some documents from that day along with conversations about the following year between Adams and Park Director Jerry Wimpee.

“The Park Department has consented to stop traffic,” Adams noted in his letter to potential participants. “This will allow you to do your thing without vehicular assault. If you get run over this year, it will be by the guy or gal behind you.”

It would also be the first year of finishing through a chute, which the organizers called “rodeo style.”

The letter concluded, “Remember, the Turkey Trot, in terms of participation, is the single largest sporting event in Texas, and the largest Thanksgiving dinner appetite whetter in the world!”

Today the race, which relocated Downtown in 1979, draws more than 40,000 entrants and is tradition for many Dallas families. The entry fee is $47 and is all online (no more race day registration). And it includes both timed and untimed options, plus a 5k fun run. City streets in Downtown, South Dallas and elsewhere are shut down all morning. More details here.

Notes on the 1975 Turkey Trot. City of Dallas Municipal Archives.


Letter from Denis Adams to Park Director Jerry Wimpee in ’76. City of Dallas Municipal Archives.

Map of 70s-era Turkey Trot. City of Dallas Municipal Archives.

Letter from the YMCA Turkey Trot race director to participants. City of Dallas Municipal Archives.