Johnson City, TN

Are You Hot to Trot? Johnson City Turkey Trot to Be Live This Thanksgiving

John M. Dabbs

Up & At ‘Em, Inc. is presenting the 16th annual Johnson City Turkey Trot. This 5k race is an icon of the Tri-Cities. With participants numbering greater than 4,000 each year, it's the largest race of its kind in the region. More than just a race it has become a tradition for most of the participants and for a good part of the attendees, it has become "The Place to be on Thanksgiving morning."

2 weeks out

Turkey trotters will take to the streets again in just two weeks. This year marks the 16 year (Sweet 15 anniversary) of the Johnson City Turkey Trot. They went virtual 5k last year due to the pandemic, and still had over 1,500 register. 2020 Pandemic participants submitted photos of their personal trots from the beach, Washington DC, Roan Mountain, and in local neighborhoods. It's great great to see many still found a way to participate. There are many who are loyal to the Johnson City Up & At 'EM Turkey Trott.

Getting personal

As we finish the third round of 2021 and pull into the fourth quarter, The 2021 Turkey Trot is back in person. Participants will gather at the start-location of Legion Street and State of Franklin Road in Johnson City. Organizers are holding their breath, as COVID rates are high even as they announced the event being close and personal this year. Participants and organizers alike are working to implement maximum precautions for each other's safety. According to their website, Up & At 'EM, Inc. wants "the Turkey Trot to be seen as a leader in hosting a large event in the safest possible way."

Pandemic Safety

Setting the standard, organizers ask for your cooperation, and to be an ambassador for safe practices during this pandemic. They ask everyone (participants and spectators) to:

  • Follow CDC guidelines
  • Consider getting vaccinated against COVID before registering for the Turkey Trot
  • Wear your "Sweet 16” Turkey Trot logo mask (adult and child sizes) at all appropriate times (once you leave your car and throughout the staging area ). The masks are included in your race packet.
  • Do not come to the race, or to pick up your packet if you are ill. Those with a documented positive COVID test at this time will be refunded their registration.
  • The staging area is spread out to allow participants to create distance between one another. Your time will not begin until you cross the starting line - it doesn’t matter where you are in the line-up.
  • Once you are out on the course, you may remove your mask as distance between runners/walkers is sufficient. Please don’t throw your mask onto the street.
  • Once in the stadium, be quick through the finish line. Water and refreshments will be available - spread out in the stadium. Please mask back-up if you end up standing in a line.
  • There isn't a formal awards ceremony. Computer monitors are available to check your finish/ranking. Those placing in your age group may stop at the awards table to pick up your trophy.
  • Everyone is encouraged to exit the area promptly due to COVID.

A virtual option is also available for those more comfortable participating on their own than in a group. The spirit of the Turkey Trot lives on whether you are participating in person or on your own.


The Turkey Trot began 16 years ago as a way for families and friends to enjoy an event where they could participate and have fun outside. It was only fitting to have it on our National Holiday of Thanksgiving. The event grew from 700 participants in its first year, to 4,400 in 2019 (the last in-person event). Even with a virtual event last year, 1,500 is more than double the event's inaugural event.

My wife's cousin is a teacher in Johnson City, and participates with her sons every year. It's a great opportunity for them to get together and have fun every year. In fact, I'm quite envious and wish my family and I were as dedicated, and in the physical shape they've maintained.


The Up & At ‘Em committee has given over $200,000 back to local community events and programs since 2005. Some of the projects they have contributed to are:

Kiwanis Park Playground, Tweetsie Trail, several local schools each year, Tannery Knobs, Olympic Day, Center of Excellence of Sports Science and Conditioning, Morning Mile, Memorial Park Community Center, Turkeys in Training Running Clinic, Central High School, Coalition For Kids, Firetruck Restoration

Johnson City Schools compete to see how many of their students can be registered each year. Up & At 'EM, Inc. has donated over $50,000 to local schools over the years.

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An outdoor enthusiast with a passion for travel and adventure. John is a professional consultant and photojournalist.

Johnson City, TN

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