ALBERT LEA, Minn. – It was Thanksgiving morning in 1966. A group of neighborhood kids in Albert Lea needed to burn off some energy, so they organized a football game. Little did they know, that game was the beginning of a tradition that is now knows as The Turkey Bowl.
Every year, since 1966 Paul Wendorff, Jim Nielsen, and Rick Harves have gotten a group together on Thanksgiving morning to play football. This year was the 51st game, which might make the Turkey Bowl the longest-standing neighborhood football game in the country.
“It’s something we’ve always done and it’s a reunion type of thing,” explains Harves. “Because over time many people have moved away, so this is one time they come back then and we see each other.”
During the 2016 game, there were three generations of Turkey Bowl players on the field.
“It’s probably half is the old group, maybe a third we’ve got the second generation and some of their kids,” says Wendorff.
“The story goes you can’t come home again,” adds Nielsen. “We get to come home for two hours every Thanksgiving morning.”
The Turkey Bowl has actually been around longer than the Super Bowl. The very first Super Bowl game was played around six weeks after the inaugural Turkey Bowl.