Colorful characters turn out for 122nd annual Turkey Trot

Nov 23, 2017

Shark Girl sprinted down Delaware Avenue like a fish in water.

She was accompanied by Superman, Spiderman, a man in his skivvies  and a couple noisy nuns.

Not to mention thousands of pilgrims, Santas, mischievous elves and other colorful characters.

One of the most photographed runners was dressed like a porta-potty.

Brianna Yegiela with her father, Joe Nemmer.
Credit WBFO photo by Brian Meyer

“That costume stinks,” one half-pint comedian shouted in glee from his curbside perch.

If you’ve celebrated Thanksgiving in Western New York at any point over the past 122 years, you already know the reason for this unusual procession that began outside the Delaware YMCA in North Buffalo and proceeded to the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center in the heart of the downtown business district.

Of course, it was the Turkey Trot, a 4.97 mile charity event that raises money for YMCA programs.

Many participants were competitive runners, none more than 24-year-old Chad Maloy of Boston, N.Y., who led all runners over the finish line with a time of 24-minutes, 25 seconds. Jenny Delsignore of Tonawanda finished first among women runners. The list of category winners can be found here.

But Al Longo on Williamsville was there largely to trigger shivers and giggles. He’s the guy who was dressed  as a portable potty.  Longo told WBFO he was inspired by a photo he spotted in a running magazine.

“I like the attention,” Longo conceded. “I’ve been Buddy the Elf one year and I was a cow last year. I

Al Longo of Williamsville decided to dress up as a portable toilet.
Credit Brian Meyer/WBFO

figured, step up the game and make a portable toilet this year.”

Longo even carried some amenities during his jaunt down Delaware. He had two rolls of toilet paper and some Tootsie Rolls and Hershey Kisses to toss out to amused spectators.

Clarence Center native Brianna Yagiela was Shark Girl. Now living in Detriot, Yagiela was visiting family for the holidays. She said the costume took her about eight hours to craft. Her father, Joe Nemmer, said the Turkey Trot clearly brings out the creativity in many people.

“Last time, she created Minions,” Nemmer said of his daughter.  “We had three of us running that year. I think we peaked with the Minions. But Shark Girl is a good runner-up.”

West Seneca resident Terri Bebak and her friend Beth Atwood were both donned in bathrobes. WBFO inquired about their costumes.

“We’re not wearing costumes. I’m offended,” Bebak said with a straightface, then immediately broke into laughter. She

Beth Atwood (left) and Teri Bebak don bathrobes for charity.
Credit Brian Meyer/WBFO

explained that the bathrobes have become a Turkey Trot tradition with a charitable twist. Bebak said the bathrobes keep the runners toasty during the first part of the race. The attire is later tossed to the curb and retrieved by event volunteers.

“You ditch them a little bit into the race and then they give them to charity. So we buy them from Amvets, and then we kind of give them back again.”

Joe Gerbec of Grand Island was celebrating his 40th birthday on Thursday. He said the Turkey Trot has been a family tradition dating back to 1933.  Gerbec conceded that getting up before sunrise on Thanksgiving to run a race doesn’t exactly make for a relaxing holiday morning. But he said it’s all worth it in the end, noting that it's all about “being together with family.”