Austin’s turkey day tradition trots back with hybrid event for 2021

Austin’s turkey day tradition trots back with hybrid event for 2021

ThunderCloud Subs Turkey Trot
Don't be a turkey. Register for the trot today. Photo courtesy of ThunderCloud Subs

The Capital City’s favorite charitable Thanksgiving Day tradition — which many Austinites flock to in full turkey regalia — is returning this fall with plans for an in-person and virtual event.

Registration for the 31st annual ThunderCloud Subs Turkey Trot, which benefits Caritas of Austin, is now open.

Though 2020’s Turkey Trot was an entirely virtual event, thanks to the pandemic, Austinites can count their blessings that the event is back this year with an in-person component — at least that’s the current plan.

Organizers of the beloved holiday event announced Wednesday, September 22, the first day of the fall season, that they have their sights set on a hybrid event that will include both virtual and in-person components, with specific details and safety protocols approved by Austin Public Health to be announced as turkey day nears.

“Thanks to the success of last year’s fully virtual Trot and the enthusiasm of people around the country and around the world, the virtual component will continue as a tradition in 2021 and beyond, regardless of the design of the in-person Trot this year,” organizers say via a release.

So, let’s talk turkey: Virtual participants will run or walk on Thanksgiving Day in their own neighborhoods — or wherever they happen to be — while other birds of a feather wing it to the Long Center for the start of the 5-mile run through downtown Austin. (Again, assuming the in-person portion of the event will happen.)

A cherished local Thanksgiving Day custom, the Turkey Trot first strutted into Austin in 1991, attracting about 600 participants. Now the event holds the distinction of being the largest 5-mile run in Texas, boasting more than 700 volunteers and over 20,000 local, national, and worldwide trotters. Even last year’s COVID-driven virtual event attracted nearly 7,000 participants.

Sure, part of the fascination involves the opportunity to don the most outrageous costumes (those turkey leg hats never get old), but inspiring most Austinites to go wild turkey and join the trot is likely the fact that the event entirely benefits Caritas of Austin, the local nonprofit that works to prevent and end homelessness in the Austin community. To date, the Turkey Trot has raised more than $4.4 million for the nonprofit.

Caritas has employed those funds wisely, breaking ground earlier this year on its very first residential center, Espero Rutland, which will provide 171 studio apartments and supportive services for those struggling with homelessness in the Austin community.

“Caritas of Austin needs our support more than ever to continue helping thousands of people to get off the streets, realize their full potential, and contribute to our community,” says Mike Haggerty, co-owner of ThunderCloud and executive director of the trot.

Registration for this year’s event ranges from $10 for the Stepping Stone School Kids K to $27 for the timed 5-mile run/walk, with prices increasing Wednesday, October 6. And, of course, registrants can score the traditional long-sleeved T-shirt (a must-have for any true Austinite), or opt for a $10 gift card to ThunderCloud Subs, a headband and wristbands, or a bandana.

This year’s event will offer multiple dates for socially distanced packet pickup at sponsor First Texas Honda. Alternately, packets can be shipped to participants for an extra charge.

And First Texas Honda will once again donate a new Honda Accord for the raffle ($25 per ticket or five tickets for $100), with all proceeds benefiting Caritas. Tickets can be purchased online or at the packet pickup location between now and Thanksgiving Day.

“All of us at ThunderCloud Subs are very grateful for the support of our customers and community,” Haggerty says. “They make it possible for us to continue to put on the Trot to give back, even in these challenging times.”

For more information and updates about this year’s Turkey Trot, visit