Parades and Poultry: Door County’s Thanksgiving Traditions

Thanksgiving is one of the most traveled weekends of the year in the United States, but Door County, Wisconsin’s most popular destination, may not be the first that comes to mind for turkey day. Indeed, a late November weekend is a great time to come to the northern peninsula! While the scenery is quite different from the lush green of summer when the orchards drip with fruit, beautiful vistas are in no short supply in late fall. As you drive north, a glittering frost covers the dormant fields.  An occasional hunter in blaze orange is just visible at the naked treeline. Houses sparkle with lights hung by on-the-ball decorators.

More than likely you’ll find yourself slowing to a halt to accommodate a group of turkeys, which several sources I checked refer to as a rafter. Believe it or not, one hundred years ago wild turkeys were not even present on the peninsula. Restocking efforts in the 1980s led to their prolific presence today. At 20 pounds or more, these huge birds move en masse, and they never seem to be in a hurry to cross the road. They seem to be taunting our habit of eating their domesticated cousins.

In addition to wildlife, November in Door County offers lots of opportunities to experience local culture. The morning of Thanksgiving locals flock to the lakeside town of Jacksonport for the annual Thanksgiving Day parade. For more than a decade, parade organizers have curated a fun procession of local businesses and groups who brave often chilly, windy weather to maintain tradition. The Sevastopol school marching band comes out with gusto to provide the obligatory brass, drums and winds sound. In keeping with the grateful theme of the day, parade organizers remind attendees to give back to their small community. A raffle accompanies the parade, and funds benefit an individual or family in need as well as local charities.

Distance from the Blacksmith Inn: Drivable in 10 minutes (7.2 miles)

Pre-registration: None

Cost: Free to attend


After the parade, the Thanksgiving meal is the next item on the schedule, and you can leave the preparations to one of Door County’s expert chefs. A number of Northern Door establishments serve the public for the holiday, and wild turkey is likely not on the menu. Be sure to call ahead to make a reservation. Closest to the Blacksmith Inn is the Harbor Fish Market & Grille in Baileys Harbor. Alexander’s in Fish Creek or The Fireside in Ellison Bay are both delicious choices. The best part is you can forget about doing the dishes!

Friday and Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend are enchanting in Sister Bay. The village’s Capture the Spirit festival is all about preparing for the season. Sister Bay’s decorations go all out with luminaries lining the sidewalks and strings of lights brightening trees and businesses. Browse the wares of local artisans at the arts fair. Get a head start on holiday shopping and buy local. Sister Bay businesses are open on this weekend, and they welcome shoppers with holiday sales and refreshments.

Distance from the Blacksmith Inn: Drivable in 12 minutes (8.8 miles)

Pre-registration: None

Cost: Free to attend


However you choose to spend your long weekend, you’ll need a warm bed to sink into post-stuffing. Check the Blacksmith Inn’s availability for your holiday getaway.

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