On the morning of Sunday, August 7, friendship, food, and faith lit up Valparaiso’s Central Park Plaza. The combination of these three things can only mean one thing: it was 7th Annual Turkeypalooza! 500 Turkeys, a nonprofit organization that makes an enormous difference in the Northwest Indiana community, worked endlessly to make this event a success.
Founder and President 500 Turkeys Jeni Bolton said, “This is our second time in Central Park. One of the aspects that makes this event so special is that we wanted it to be free for the community. It’s a fun, free, and safe environment for a family to spend time with each other and their friends. We want to make it available to everyone, from young children to senior citizens”
Bolton is a truly inspirational woman. To read our Life in the Spotlight piece about Bolton and her commitment to providing every hungry family a Thanksgiving meal, click here. Since 2009, 500 Turkeys mission is to feed 500 families for Thanksgiving with the help of the community serving together. For the past seven years, they have been able to give an entire Thanksgiving meal to an estimated 35,000 people.
Bolton continued, “The first year we did this we served 500 families, and initially this project started of as a one year initiative. We’ve grown and progressed immensely since then. Now our goal is to provide 1,000 families with Thanksgiving dinner.”
The event was filled with excitement in every corner. The morning began at 10 am with a Sunday Service with Life Bridge Christian Church. Vendors set up shop in the William Urschel Pavilion, allowing attendees to mingle and interact with local businesses. A dunk tank was provided by the Boys and Girls Club, and our very own Founder Chris Mahlmann was the first to fall victim to it! Bounce ‘N Around brought a bouncy house for kids to play in, and kids were even able to get their faces painted! LaSalle Council Cub Scouts were selling baked goods, and the proceeds went to support 500 Turkeys.
Rylee Sibray, 500 Turkeys Junior Committee member said, “A lot of work goes into a successful distribution night. Distribution night is the night we give people their meal boxes. My favorite part about volunteering with 500 Turkeys is seeing the reaction of people when you give them their Thanksgiving meals. People are so thankful for the work we do.”
Valpo Velvet Ice Cream along with Designer Desserts, Pierogi Square & Valpo Nazarene Church offered food for purchase. A Valpo Velvet ice cream cone was the right touch for the warm summer day. Numerous artists took the stage, sending music of all genres to travel throughout the park. Bands included SevenGlory, Anchors, Once Ascended, Jerica Paliga, Angelo Cicco, David Thornberry, Revived, and Into the Light. Additionally, Valparaiso Police K9's and Bike Officers along with the Valparaiso Fire Department were answering questions and supporting 500 Turkeys.
Brady, a seven-year-old Cub Scout, said, “We are so happy to be here helping 500 Turkeys reach their goal! We love to volunteer and give back to the community, and all the money that we raise today will go to support the Thanksgiving meals.”
Sponsors of the event included Northwest Indiana Group - Thrivent Financial, Valparaiso Nazarene Church, Bounce N Around, Life Bridge Christian Church, McDonald's, and Living Stones Church.
A huge thank you to both Jeni Bolton and 500 Turkeys for making it a priority to impact the lives of thousands during a very special holiday. It is due to projects like Turkeypalooza that Northwest Indiana remains an inclusive community.