RALEIGH — The Raleigh Jaycees turkey shoot has been a fixture at the N.C. State Fair for nearly 60 years, and this year won't be any different - despite the recent demolition of the iconic cinder-block structure that housed it.
The Jaycees and fair officials have come up with a way to build a temporary turkey shoot at the same location as the old one. When the fair opens Thursday, patrons will fire guns at targets surrounded by hay bales set against three tractor-trailers parked in a U - all of which can be taken down and moved when the fair ends.
The arrangement allows the turkey shoot to go on much as it always has, minus the homely cinder-block building that was of no use to fairgrounds officials for 50 weeks a year.
"It was an eyesore and needed to be replaced," said Leah Herreid, directing the turkey shoot for the Jaycees this year.
The old roofless turkey shoot building is one of several structures fairgrounds officials plan to raze, in part to ease movement on the grounds during the fair.
Two geodesic domes near Dorton Arena off Hillsborough Street are gone, but two other buildings - the Hobbies and Crafts building and the rabbit barn - remain for now. Uncertainty over this year's state budget and simple lack of time delayed their removal, said State Fair spokeswoman Natalie Alford.
"We've got events happening every weekend all the time, so we have a limited amount of time to work on demolishing buildings," Alford said. "There's only a certain amount of things we can do in a year."
'We don't shoot turkeys'
The Raleigh Jaycees have held the turkey shoot at the fair since 1952, when the event was a fundraiser for Jaycee Park off Wade Avenue in Raleigh. The event now accounts for about one-third of the organization's operating budget, said Carter Pettibone, a spokesman and past president for the Jaycees.
On a midway full of shooting games, the turkey shoot is the only place at the fair that allows people to fire real guns. Patrons shoot 20-guage shotguns loaded with birdshot at targets hung on pine logs, and whoever comes closest to the center gets to choose a T-shirt or a frozen turkey.
"That's where the turkey part comes in," Herreid said. "We don't shoot turkeys."
More than two dozen Jaycees gathered at the fairgrounds Saturday to unload 500 bales of hay and stack them up against the tractor-trailers. It's a labor of love these volunteers weren't sure would happen this year, said Liz Gallops, a health insurance broker from Raleigh who has been a Jaycee for six years.
"We knew the turkey shoot was going to come back," Gallops said. "We just didn't know if it was going to come back this year."