The only turkey on the menu at one of Moab’s biggest Thanksgiving Day events is the one that will be standing squarely in the bull’s eye of BASE jumpers’ landing approach.
Turkey Boogie participants from around the world will return to the cliffs high above Kane Creek Canyon on Thanksgiving morning to make as many technical plunges as they can within the span of two hours. They’ll dive off the Tombstone Cliff area and down to the canyon below, and since the event falls on Thanksgiving, they’ll attempt to land squarely within the likeness of a turkey.
While the red rock cliffs are a major draw for many Turkey Boogiers, so is the chance to give back to a community that largely supports BASE jumping and adventure sports in general: The event is now a significant source of funding for Grand County Search and Rescue.
Turkey Boogie began in 2000, but it wasn’t until two years ago that a group of BASE jumpers decided to transform the event into something that would benefit the community.
“You guys embrace BASE jumping, more or less, which in the United States is pretty rare,” California BASE jumper Matt Lajeunesse said.
“We said, ‘Why not try to do something out there to help out?’” he added.
Since that time, Turkey Boogie has raised a combined total of $10,849 for search and rescue operations and equipment. As the event grows, Lajeunesse is optimistic that participants and spectators can continue to give more and more each year.
“It’s a relationship that we need to embrace, and just give back a little bit,” he said.
In addition to the accuracy event, Turkey Boogie will be holding a fundraising raffle at the Moab Valley Inn, 711 S. Main St., on Wednesday, Nov. 25. Raffle tickets will go on sale at about 6:30 p.m. that night, and organizers will be raffling away somewhere between 40 and 50 items for free, or at steep discounts. This year’s offerings include wingsuits, tracksuits, pilot chutes and much more.
“Those are things that usually cost us thousands of dollars,” Lajeunesse said.
This year, organizers are able to give more stuff away – or offer items at discounted rates – because their corporate partners stepped forward with donations when asked.
“Pretty much every manufacturer said yes to us,” he said.
Residents and visitors alike are encouraged to attend the raffle, although Lajeunesse expects to see more people at the Thanksgiving Day jump site in Kane Creek Canyon between 8 and 10 a.m.
“I’d say that the accuracy event is a far more fun, community-oriented event than the raffle,” he said.
Moab resident Scott Rogers said the site offers classic BASE jumps to experienced adventurers.
“There are a lot of really great cliffs to do it from,” he said.
The accuracy event is open to advanced BASE jumpers only, although bystanders are welcome to watch.
While Lajeunesse is helping out with fundraising activities, he is just one of many volunteers who are involved in Turkey Boogie. He asks people to keep in mind the combined efforts that everyone else has put into the fundraiser and accuracy event, which continues to grow in size and scope.
The first Turkey Boogie drew somewhere around six to eight participants to Moab. This year, about 150 are expected to make the plunge, and almost 400 have indicated that they will attend the accuracy event or the fundraiser, according to Turkey Boogie’s Facebook page.
“Like everything else, every year, there are more and more people, and we found ourselves with a pretty large group out in Moab,” Lajeunesse said. “It will be the biggest BASE jumping event in the United States this year.”
Grand County Search and Rescue Commander Jim Webster said he was grateful to receive the first offer of financial help two years ago.
“They wanted to give back to the community, and they were interested in donating to search and rescue since we have gone out and helped those recreationists in the past,” Webster said. “We have really appreciated that.”
Search and rescue has used some of that funding to pay for new equipment and training, including new hardware for rope rescue operations and backpacks. Combined with funding from other sources, Turkey Boogie money helped the team buy a jet boat for river rescues; additional money has been set aside for future expenses, Webster said.
It’s just one of several fundraising events for search and rescue that outdoor-oriented groups hold throughout the year, and the extra money is especially welcome at a time when the team is as occupied as ever.
“It’s been the busiest year we’ve ever had,” Webster said. “As of (Nov. 14), we logged our 133rd search and rescue mission for the year.”
That’s up considerably from the average of about 100 missions a year, although Webster said it remains unclear what’s driving the increase in the number of calls.
“I don’t really know why we’re having so many this year, but certainly the number of people coming here to recreate has some bearing on it, I imagine,” he said.
In addition to Turkey Boogie, highliners are arriving every day at the Fruit Bowl highline area near Mineral Canyon, where they can dangle about 400 feet off the ground in a “spider’s web” of lines.
Rogers said the informal gathering is not an organized event: unlike Turkey Boogie, there are no competitions or organized activities.
“It’s really kind of this organically created community where people come together,” he said.
Musicians, fire dancers and other creative souls are always welcome to show up at any time, Rogers said.
“Come with a positive attitude, and be ready to have fun with the best people you’ll ever meet in your life,” he said.
Thanksgiving Day event to raise money for new equipment, training
“They wanted to give back to the community, and they were innterested in donating to search and rescue since we have gone out and helped those recreationists in the past … We have really appreciated that.”
When: Event times vary. A raffle fundraiser will be held on Wednesday, Nov. 25; tickets will go on sale around 6:30 p.m. A BASE jumping accuracy event will be held on Thursday, Nov. 26 (Thanksgiving Day), from 8 to 10 a.m.
Where: Raffle fundraiser will be held at Moab Valley Inn, 711 S. Main St. The viewing site to watch BASE jumpers is located at the Tombstone Cliff parking area in Kane Creek Canyon. From downtown Moab, drive south on U.S. Highway 191 (Main Street). Turn right on Kane Creek Boulevard, which is located between the Burger King and McDonald’s. Keep left and follow Kane Creek Boulevard beyond the pavement. The parking area is located about 0.7 miles past a cattle guard.
Cost: Raffle tickets are $10 each. Accuracy event is free to spectators; donations are encouraged, and proceeds will benefit Grand County Search and Rescue.
For more information about Turkey Boogie, go to www.facebook.com/events/615735705131491/.