Mt. Cheaha hosts f irst New Year’s Eve turkey drop
by Benjamin Nunnally
Special to The Star
Dec 22, 2013 | 2851 views |  0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
It’s a chilly morning atop Mt. Cheaha. The PBS broadcasting tower shoots up into a thick mist, disappearing into the cloud like it might go on forever. Up here where it’s the coldest, the barest hint of snow falls. Tammy Power, superintendent of Cheaha State Park, stands in front of the nearby observation tower and points to the top of the structure, where a row of windows looks out over the expansive Talledega National Forest, and more.

“We’re going to drop the turkey from there,” said Power.

Back up. That might require some explanation. What Power is talking about is something similar to the ball drop in Times Square, or the moonpie drop in Mobile. Except in this case, it’s an illuminated turkey dropping from the sky.

Why a turkey, you might ask. It goes back to the Pinhoti Trail, a 335-mile hiking trail that runs through the Talledega National Forest into Georgia, where it connects with the Appalachian Trail.

“We want to support everything that’s around us, and the Talladega National Forest is one of the most important features of this park,” said Power.

“Pinhoti,” as it turns out, is the Creek word for “home of the turkey.” There was much deliberation over what to use instead of a mere ball — possums were discussed at one point — but the creative staff found the Pinhoti connection irresistible.

There’s more than falling turkey to the festivities, however. Power wants to offer a more family-friendly New Year’s Eve celebration in Northeast Alabama, a place people can gather away from the bar scene that’s open to children and young couples looking for a romantic evening.

“Why not share the first kiss of the new year at the highest point in Alabama?” she asked.

Visitors can huddle up near bonfires, listen to live music or Alabama 100’s live broadcast from the summit. Hot chocolate, coffee and sparkling cider will be served, and the Cheaha Restaurant will be open from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. with a breakfast buffet catering to the needs of a hungry crowd. Power notes that visitors can bring their own hot chocolate, blankets and snacks if they so desire. Alcohol will be reserved for the restaurant area only.

“This is going to be a mountain New Year’s Eve in a family-friendly environment,” said Power, noting that there are plenty of places to have a drink on New Year’s Eve, but not a great number of places to gather the whole family together.

The evening may not seem customary — especially when Pinhoti the Turkey comes out to teach visitors the Turkey Trot, but Power hopes to see the night turn into a lasting area tradition.

“Dress warm, come out and be part of something that could end up being something we have for years and years,” said Power.

Benjamin Nunnally is a freelance writer in Jacksonville. Contact him at

WHAT: First annual Lighted Turkey Ball Drop
WHEN: New Year’s Eve, starting at 9 p.m. with turkey drop at midnight; Cheaha Restaurant breakfast buffet served 11 p.m. to 2 a.m.
WHERE: Cheaha State Park
COST: Admission is $10 per carload; breakfast buffet is $7.95 per person
INFO: 256-488-5115
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Mt. Cheaha hosts f irst New Year’s Eve turkey drop by Benjamin Nunnally
Special to The Star

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