There are some things children should know at an early age.
This fact should undeniably be among them: Every November in the United States, the masses go to the polls to vote for their favorite turkey.
No, I’m not talking about Election Day. I’m talking about the Hamilton Post’s annual Adult Handturkey Drawing Contest, a campaign where every candidate is unquestionably foul, er, fowl. And that’s a good thing.
Several weeks ago, my editor described the event to my co-workers as “fast becoming a Hamilton tradition.” That may be too much grandeur — or sarcasm — to describe a contest that requires grown-ups use crayons and glue sticks to impress 5-year olds. But the description does pay respect to the extremely complex artistic process competitors face. You see, the artists must trace their hands and attempt to turn the shape into a turkey. It may not sound difficult, but just try using a blue crayon for three hours without getting hand cramps.
While the adults learned the hard facts about aging — I know I can’t quite color like I used to — this year’s contest gave 30 Hamilton kindergarteners a short lesson in democracy.
The students had their pick of seven turkeys, all of them drawn by the staff at the Hamilton Post. This was one more candidate than last year, when a drawing of video game icons Mario and Luigi beat out five other turkeys to earn judges’ vote as Best In Show. A piece depicting The Cat In The Hat as a turkey won an online poll at Mercerspace.com.
I was promised even more entries this year, but the hype may have artificially limited the number. Several people told me they attempted to create turkeys before deciding creativity wasn’t their thing. Another co-worker said she wanted to participate, but couldn’t because the deadline fell right after her wedding anniversary. Apparently, she’d rather spend time with her husband than drawing a turkey. Yeesh. Some people’s priorities.
So, we were left with seven brave folks who were, on average, two decades older than the people they were trying to impress. After sitting out last year, I entered this year with a turkeyfication of Perry the Platypus from the Disney TV show “Phineas and Ferb.” My editor took one look at my drawing before chuckling and saying, “We’re really pandering now, aren’t we? Clever.”
Any politician worth his salt should know a successful campaign is about gearing your content to please your target audience. It is also — more bluntly put — about pandering. My visit to the Kindergarten classroom would prove my acumen at this art, but only after one boy in the class cleared up some concerns about my occupation:
“Are you a mailman?”
“Is your brother a mailman?”
With that out of the way, the teacher unveiled the Hamilton Post turkeys one by one. A drawing of an enthusiastic, outgoing turkey received an enthusiastic, outgoing response from a boy who giggled and shouted, “Oh yeah!” whenever he looked at the turkey. The class greeted a Nickelodeon-ready rendering of Spongebob as a turkey by yelling, “Spongebob!” and then marveling at how the artist incorporated both her hands into the drawing. Lesser skilled artists only used one hand.
A turkey that looks like TV show character Dora the Explorer featured feathers made of heavy stock colored paper. The Kindergarten judges noted the feathers were quite awesome. Later, an expert illustration of bride and groom turkeys went a bit over the children’s heads, despite the fact it probably deserves to be in a museum somewhere. Kindergarten can be a harsh place.
After every turkey had its time in the spotlight, the students voted for their favorite one. I stood in the corner without comment, letting the teacher run the show. The teacher tallied the votes quickly, causing one student to say, “Wow, you really know your numbers!”
In the end, a haunted house-turkey hybrid finished third and earned praise for being “whoa, awesome.” A Harry Potter turkey magically finished second, as many of the students chose the drawing because they had older relatives who enjoyed the Potter books and movies. Also, it was a pretty hilarious illustration.
In first place? Perry the Platypus, of course. My turkey received 11 votes, beating the next closest competitor by 17 percentage points and proving what my mother has said all along: I have the mind of a 5-year old.
The students said they selected Perry because “it’s part of my favorite show,” “I like his tail” and “his hat is made of electricity.” One student bounced up and down in his chair, chanting “Perry! Perry! Perry!” quietly to himself. He was polite about his fandom.
Just like last year, the students asked if they could make turkeys for the adults who drew turkeys for them. The teacher permitted it, and one student raised his hand to share a preview of his art.
“You know what I’m going to make? A cake,” he said.
“A cake turkey?” the teacher asked.
I went to leave the classroom so the students could get started on their cake turkeys, but the teacher stopped me to make a final announcement. Before I exited, the teacher informed the students their comments would be in the November edition of the Hamilton Post. I wasn’t expecting the children to know exactly what a Hamilton Post is, but one of them surprised me.
“Wow! Cool! The Hamilton Post!” he said.
Here was someone even better at pandering than me. At 5! With such promise, I’m sure I’ll be seeing his name on the ballot during the 2042 presidential election.
He already has my vote.
Rob Anthes is senior community editor of the Hamilton Post. To view this year’s hand turkeys and vote for your favorite, go online to facebook.com/mercerspace. To connect with Rob Anthes and other community members online, go to facebook.com/robanthes.