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AYER — The Ayer Fire Department held their annual Turkey Party on Nov. 18, with more than 300 people taking a chance to win a turkey and other various prizes.

Since 1946, the station has been holding their Turkey Party to raise funds for their firefighter association, which contributes to department purchases, such as their Kubota off-road vehicle that was purchased back in 2008.

“The funds help supplement costs for purchasing equipment or training aid costs for programs that aren’t necessarily apart of our normal training, such as paramedic school,” said Brendan Hurley, firefighter and co-coordinator of the Turkey Party.

The funds also support the SAFE program and contribute to a scholarship that will be given to a graduating senior at Ayer-Shirley Regional High School.

The wheel started spinning at 7 p.m. and tickets to participate in the raffle were 25 cents per spin.

“It’s a long night. We start right at 7 and we are here until about 10:30 at night,” said Andrew Anderson, firefighter and co-coordinator of the Turkey Party.

The department raffled off over 75 turkeys, a dozen hams, and prizes from local businesses, such as windshield washer fluid from Splash Products in town.

“Every business in town gets a letter from us and they get the chance to sponsor a turkey, donate a gift certificate, or even donate product from their business depending on what they want to do. We get a good sampling of businesses from across town,” Hurley said.

So what is it about betting on a Thanksgiving turkey that attracts hundreds of people each year? Shirley resident Jennifer Cordio says it isn’t about winning an actual prize, but more importantly about spending time with familiar faces before the holiday.

“It’s a lot of fun seeing people from the town that you don’t see all the time and its fun to see how many people show up,” Cordio said.

“We get a lot people that have been coming here their whole lives or since they were little kids. It’s a local tradition for everyone and it’s certainly a very fun night,” Hurley said.

Planning for this year’s Turkey Party started back in September and continued up until moments before the event as last minute gifts and details were being added.

“It is a lot of work and a lot of running around but it’s very rewarding,” Hurley said.