Originally created 11/23/04

Many show up for free turkey



Teretha Wright arrived at Dyess Park before sunrise for the Sysco Corporation's truckload of 1,000 turkeys for the annual James Brown turkey giveaway.

She wasn't the first one there.

"I got here at a quarter to six and people were out here," said Ms. Wright, the Dyess center coordinator for the Augusta Recreation and Parks Department.

It was 9:30 a.m. by the time volunteers and employees of the recreation department, James Brown Enterprises and Comcast had finished transferring the birds from boxes to bags. The line outside stretched for nearly a block, with people clapping and toe-tapping to the live gospel music of the Swanee Quintet.

A longtime admirer of Mr. Brown, John Evans, 49, arrived early to distribute turkeys as he does every year, he said.

"To take a poor man from the ghetto and take him to the White House! That man used to shine shoes just up the road there," he said of Mr. Brown, pointing down the old Ninth Street. "He's the perfect role model for someone coming out of the ghetto."

Standing or sitting - some with canes, wheelchairs or folding chairs - under the light gray sky, no one seemed to mind waiting for Mr. Brown.

"No, I come to wait. It's a big help, and I enjoy the music," said Mattie Williams, 73, of North Augusta, a regular attendee since the first giveaway in 1991.

Louis Rogers, 76, of Augusta, said he comes yearly because he's known Mr. Brown for years and he likes the turkey.

"I got here at 7. I try to beat that crowd," he said. "I don't mind the wait. I'm not doing anything."

Mr. Brown arrived at about 12:40 p.m. with his wife, Tomi Rae Brown, and son James Brown Jr., in tow.

After greeting the crowd, he sang a few notes with the band, then said a prayer, ending with, "Now let's go get some turkey."

Mr. Brown said he felt at home seeing people he grew up with at the event.

"Just look around and see everybody; this is family. It's not about politics or partying; it's about people. It's a beautiful surprise," he said as old friends happily shook his hand.

The day was Thanksgiving for the Browns because the entertainer will be working on the holiday, Mrs. Brown said.

"We leave for Canada Wednesday, so we had the kids and grandkids here," she said. "We fed a lot of people. Everybody got a turkey. I guess it worked out the way God wanted it to."

Reach C. Samantha McKevie at (706) 823-3552 or samantha.mckevie@augustachronicle.com.