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Happy Thanksgiving- traditions ! Lohud article

Posted Thursday, November 27, 2008 by lohud.com Alex Myers

Turkey Bowl tradition continues

By Alex Myers
The Journal News • November 27, 2008

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WHITE PLAINS - It's going to happen today - maybe at this very moment.

Skip Morton and his wife, Monica, are opening the doors to their White Plains home, expecting to welcome a sea of people. Instead, they'll see the calm before the storm.


"At 8 o'clock, we always say, 'This is the year no one is going to come,' " Skip said. "By 9, you can't move in the living room. It's mobbed."

Such has been the routine for the past two decades. The brunch hosted by the couple before the annual Turkey Bowl between Stepinac and White Plains has become as much a Thanksgiving tradition as the varsity football game itself.

"I enjoy seeing people I haven't seen in a while," Monica said. "It's fun. It's a happy time, and everybody is always smiling. It's a short but very pleasurable experience."

With 60 pounds of turkey, a spread of breakfast foods and plenty of beverages, the Morton brunch certainly isn't short on refreshments. Going to the game is the only reason why this annual party, which begins at 8 a.m. every Thanksgiving, ever winds down.

"At 10 o'clock, it's game time," said Skip, 60, who heads a money-management group for Royal Bank of Canada in Stamford, Conn. "I'll say, 'You people can stay at my house, but I'm out of here!' "

The 38th annual Turkey Bowl between the teams kicks off at 10:30 a.m. today at White Plains High School's Loucks Field. It will be the first time the game isn't played at Parker Stadium, a move taking place to accommodate the thousands of fans expected to attend.

Three of the Mortons' sons - Adam, Jake and Brent - played football for Stepinac, but their two youngest children, Thomas and Kira, graduated from White Plains, giving the family connections to both schools. That is evident by the various pictures, memorabilia and red-and-blue or black-and-orange decorations around the house.

As a result, the party is pretty evenly split between supporters of the two teams.

As Monica remembers, the Morton pregame brunch, now in its 21st edition, started as a get-together for Stepinac parents who had driven from all over the county to drop their kids off early for the game. It quickly became a big community event, with the Mortons having hosted as many as 145 people at one time. Even White Plains Mayor Joseph Delfino has dropped by a couple of times. The Mortons stuff fliers in mailboxes around the city, but most people just show up after hearing about the shindig's reputation through word of mouth.

The couple's connection to the game goes back much further. In 1971, Skip was a Stepinac teacher and one of the coaches during the inaugural matchup between the teams. He and Monica recall purchasing 2,000 hot dogs, rolls and sodas for a hot-dog stand Skip ran with a friend to make some extra money in anticipation of a huge crowd. But when a freezing rain fell that day, business suffered.

"I remember sending in plays from the sideline, and looking over to the stands and seeing my friend and my wife just giving the thumbs-down sign," said Skip, who can laugh at his misfortune 37 years later. "For a year after that, all my wife and I ate and drank were hot dogs and sodas."

Cold weather made the 1989 party memorable as well.

"We were dressed and ready to go at the school, but it was snowing out and we found out the game was canceled," said Stepinac coach Mike O'Donnell, who has been to every one of these games since 1980. "With nowhere else to go, I went over and enjoyed the Morton brunch. It was a great time."

The coaches may have gotten a chance to attend that year, but the brunch and the game - like the holiday itself - have always been mainly about family. O'Donnell is no exception to that with his sons Conor, a senior on the Stepinac team and a former ball boy for the game, and Liam, a seventh-grader in his fifth year helping out on the sidelines for this annual tilt.

"To me, the football game is Thanksgiving," said White Plains football and basketball team historian Don Gano, 67, the public-address announcer at the game for 20 years until 1992. "It's an exciting game, and you can throw out the records. Whoever wants it more usually wins."

The change in location will give today's game a different feel. It won't alter much for the Mortons, though.

They'll wake up at 5 a.m. to deep-fry turkeys before running all over town to get fresh rolls, doughnuts and coffee. After some final touches, the wait will be on for the inevitable crowd to come - a group that will head in another direction when it's time to leave and watch some football.

"It's kind of cool. Instead of going west when you go out of our house, you go east," Skip said. "We've thought about stopping it, but our kids say, 'How can you stop? It's tradition.' It's turned out to be a nice event."

Read Alex Myers at alemyers@lohud.com.

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