Thanksgiving traditions in Exeter include pumpkin pie, mashed potatoes… and elementary students winning and then hoisting frozen turkeys over their heads at Jacksonwald Elementary during the school’s annual turkey raffle. The weird-yet-wonderful school tradition returned today to exuberant cheers of "Turkey! Turkey! Turkey!" from the packed cafeteria where students and teachers waited with bated breath to see who among them would win the frosty fowls. For students, being selected as a winner was so joyful that all jumped from their seats on the floor to cheers, high fives and hugs from their classmates as they rushed up to Principal Matt Hathaway to collect their frozen turkey and show off their strength by lifting (with assistance) the bird over their head to the delight and cheers of their peers.
The tradition, which was started by retired Lausch and Jacksonwald principal, Dr. Joe Schlaffer more than 15 years ago, was resurrected last year following a pause during the pandemic and leadership changes at the school. Despite the pause, the turkey hoisting tradition is still a cornerstone of the school's school-wide monthly events that reward students for their good behavior.
“The time we saw the most misbehavior was right before the holidays,” said Dr. Schlaffer, who reminisced about the origins of the raffle last year. “The whole idea was that kids could go home with a turkey, and when they get home, their parents were going to say, ‘Where did you get a turkey?’” And they’d be able to tell their parents they got the turkey at school for good behavior. I thought it was a win-win-win situation for students, their parents and goodwill in the community,” he said.
Like last year, Weis Markets in Oley found humor and heart in the school's tradition, and agreed to donate 20 turkeys to give away to one student in each classroom. "Jacksonwald is so thankful for Weis and their generosity," Principal Hathaway said at the end of the event. "And we're thankful for our wonderful school community where we can celebrate student achievement and behavior with great traditions such as this."