Support

‘Chief Turkey’ Mark Riley is still having fun leading the annual Arlington Turkey Trot

Mark Riley as Chief Turkey (photo courtesy of Arlington Turkey Trot)

Arlington Forest native Mark Riley has been managing the Arlington Turkey Trot for a decade and enjoys being called “Chief Turkey.”

“It’s fun. And if you are having fun, you can do great things,” Riley (or Chief Turkey) told ARLnow. “If you are not having fun, it’s very difficult to get people to want to do anything.”

The annual Thanksgiving 5K is set to take place on Thursday, Nov. 24 at 8 a.m. this year, starting on N. Pershing Drive in Lyon Park. The race is likely returning to the course — through the Lyon Park and Ashton Heights neighborhoods — that was run prior to the pandemic, per the event’s website.

Wherever this year’s race may trot through, Riley plans to be there donning a turkey costume as he has since 2013.

“This community loves to get together in a festive, heartening, helpful, friendly, joyous atmosphere. [The turkey trot] has become a tradition in Arlington County over the years,” Riley said. “People keep coming over, over, and over again. They bring their kids. Then, the kids who grow up bring their kids. And it just keeps going on and on.”

The Arlington Turkey Trot was first started in 2006 by Christ Church of Arlington Pastor Brian Webster and his wife Diane. That first run had about 300 joggers, runners, and walkers. This year’s race is expected to attract about 4,000 trotters and raise about $120,000 for assorted local charities, equivalent to pre-pandemic numbers.

Riley said that initially the trot only supported a few organizations, but last year they expanded the number of charities that received funds to 18. Those include Path Forward, Arlington Thrive, R.E.A.D., Phoenix Bikes, and others.

“A number of nonprofits, typically smaller budgeted non-profits, have been knocking on [our] door to say we want to be included,” said Riley. “We did not know how to say no to any of them. So, we included them all.”

For his work over the years, Riley is being presented with a “Spirit of Community” award by the Arlington Community Foundation next week. The acknowledgment had him “tearing up,” he said because it’s a reminder of how passionate the community is about helping others.

There was some gobbling that Riley may be hanging up his feathers as the Chief Turkey after this year’s race, but he said those rumors are fowl.

Yes, 2021 was particularly tough due to the lingering impact of Covid and a shortage of police officers, but this year has proven ​​Riley still has the energy of a poult. With a bit of extra support and taking on fewer tasks, he said that the plan is to keep on gobbling as Chief Turkey “for the foreseeable future.”

Besides being able to provide for those less fortunate in the community, what Riley really loves about the trot is seeing the joy it brings so many people. On often-chilly Thanksgiving mornings, watching families run together and kids darting across the finish line fills him with warm feelings.

Adding to the good vibes, every kid that finishes gets a medal.

“The thing that really resonates for [me] when I think of the trot is… joy. I think of joy probably more than anything else,” Riley said. “People who have big, joyous smiles on their faces. They love the turkey trot.”

Recent Stories

It’s holiday time and the lights are coming on in Arlington. Over the next several weeks, a slew of tree lightings, Santa visits, markets, and holiday celebrations are happening around…

A 2 BD/2 BA fully renovated brick home in North Arlington with hardwood floors is included in Home Hunt Highlights.

A box truck has overturned on a residential North Arlington street. The crash happened just after 11 a.m. at the intersection of N. Lexington Street and 22nd Street N., on…

A stretch of Lorcom Lane on the northern edge of the Cherrydale neighborhood is slated to get pedestrian safety upgrades, particularly aimed at improving a school walking route for kids….

Join us December 10 & 11 for our Annual Handmade Holiday Workshop Series. We have a myriad of fun and festive programs from linoleum block wrapping paper printing and buttonhole book making workshops led by Eliza Clifford to a meditative grid workshop and Calligraphy Card Making with Anjelika Deogirikar. Join these wonderful artists and get creative this holiday season!

Submit your own Announcement here.

Light Up Arlington – Clarendon Menorah Lighting

Join us as we celebrate the holiday of Chanukah! Enjoy delicious Latkes, hot cocoa, donuts and more!

Clarendon Menorah Lighting and Community Celebration

Experience the festival of lights!!

*Lighting of a giant 9 foot Menorah

Read More

National Chamber Ensemble – Holiday Cheer!

NCE’s Holiday Concert will bring the finest classical masterpieces and holiday favorites together for the whole family. The festivities begin with Leroy Anderson’s classic “Sleigh Ride” and “Chanukkah Festival”, music from the Nutcracker and by J.S. Bach.

Outstanding Young Artist

×

Subscribe to our mailing list