More than 300 people attended the sixth annual Turkey Creek High School reunion held Aug. 26.
Hundreds of people gathered Aug. 26 for the Turkey Creek High School alumni reunion. The annual event steps outside of basic class reunions and brings together anyone who ever attended the strawberry school.
Pat Gibson Ballard, class of 1966, started gathering the classes in 2011 at a barn in Turkey Creek. Now more than 300 people attend regularly, with the number growing every year.
“It was a wild idea that I had,” Ballard said. “It was an opportunity to get everyone together to see people we haven’t seen in forever. We have our individual class reunions but we had not had a big reunion.”
Ballard, along with five other women, are part of a committee that works year round to bring
the event together.
This year’s festivities were held in the Expo Hall at the Florida Strawberry Festival grounds. Tables adorned in blue and yellow covered the hall for attendees to enjoy catered meals from Johnson’s BBQ. By the entrance were displayed letterman and FFA jackets that had been donated to the Turkey Creek High School archives. Old yearbooks, photo albums and more were available for alumni to peruse throughout the day.
The reunion also featured a display honoring veterans of the school. Pictures of those who have served along with honors they received, including two purple hearts, were presented on poster boards, mimicking a feature done in a Turkey Creek yearbook from 1945. Durant
High School’s ROTC did a presentation of the flag and FFA students helped with the registration on the day of the event.
Ginger Hall Houck, class of 1958 and a member of the committee, said while putting on the event is a lot of hard work, watching friends who haven’t seen each other in decades reconnect makes it all worth it.
“It’s a lot nicer to come here and visit than waiting until someone passes away and going to a funeral,” Houck, said. “You can just look at all the good times you had and have fun remembering.”
Houck said every year they have people showing up early and staying late. They often have attendees tell them the reunion is the highlight of their year.
“One of the lyrics of our alma mater says ‘memories of bygone days’ and that’s what this is,” Robert Dale Dixon, class of 1969, said. “We sing that Saturday.”
Ballard has already selected a date for next year, Sept. 22 at the expo hall, and said she hopes to see the event continue to grow.
“I think this event is important because it brings everybody together,” Ballard said. “Turkey Creek was a small school. Everyone was either related or knew each other. We associated with people that were not just in our graduating class because our classes were so small. We had our individual reunions but I thought it was important to combine them. For some people this is the only reunion they have now.”
Ballard said one of her favorite parts of the job is being in charge of registration. She said when people call to RSVP for the event she often will be on the phone for hours reminiscing before she hangs up.
Echoing the sentiments of her committee members, she said seeing people reconnect every year is what keeps her passionate about making the event continue to happen. Ballard said there have been multiple times where she has seen attendees casually chatting to someone and then they spot their name tag and let out a shriek having not recognized their childhood friend.
This year, the committee hired Pam Porter to come take photos of individuals and classes along with candid shots of the event. She will then put them all together in a “year book” that anyone in attendance will be able to purchase.
Ballard said Turkey Creek was a tight-knit community and, unlike larger schools, places a lot of worth on these type of events. While some classmates remained lifelong friends, others drifted apart and the reunion is a perfect catalyst for rekindling those relationships.
“Once a Gobbler, always a Gobbler,” Ballard said. “That’s our motto.”