Tremont Turkey Festival celebrates 48 years

By WEEK Producer

June 7, 2013 Updated Jun 8, 2013 at 9:38 PM CDT

TREMONT, Ill. -- Jack Moser is firing up central Illinois' biggest barbecue this weekend.

The Tremont Turkey Festival is underway and while Moser's been a Jack of all trades for over years at this annual event, his primary role now is cooking all those turkeys.

"The first year we cooked 75 turkeys altogether and now we're up to 1,500, so we have come a long way," said Moser.

Moser's team of turkey chefs uses 42 ovens. They cook each bird for four hours at 325 degrees.

The old Morton Metal Craft company built the original ovens. Each of the current gas grills they use cost about $800.

"When you cook with gas its more moist," Moser explained.

The Turkey Festival was created in the early 1960's when Tremont residents met to come up with a way to raise money to build a community pool. During that meeting one resident, Bea Roosa, stood up and said the idea would never work. Almost 50 years later she's been proven wrong.

Last year's Turkey Festival brought in over $100,000. That money helped fund things like Tremont Rescue 702, the local library and the Tremont Park District.

Even Miss Tremont is enlisted to help.

"I'm going to judge the lip-sync contest tomorrow and I have to work on the food line," said McKenzie Behrends, who will be a senior at Tremont High School.

The Tremont Turkey Festival continues throughout the weekend before wrapping up Sunday afternoon with a parade at 4 pm.