DARLINGTON, S.C. — The skies were dark, the temperatures crisp, the line long and the turkeys free early Tuesday morning in Darlington.
The line stretched from just about Main Street south through Courthouse Square and Down Cashua Street 30 minutes after the event started as volunteers distributed the turkeys, a bag of canned vegetables and a bottle of Mountain Dew.
For the 18th year David Eads and E.B. Bridges teamed up with volunteers, supporters and donors to make sure residents around Darlington who needed, or wanted, a turkey had one.
"We started it 18 years ago and it has grown every year," said Eads, who is a chiropractor when not making sure his community has turkeys. "It was just something we were talking about doing for the community in conjunction with the Chamber of Commerce. Years ago."
"It was quite interesting the first year and it has gotten better and better every year," Eads said.
"It certainly has," said E.B. Bridges, who is general manager of a Chevrolet dealership in his regular life.
Life was normal for neither man Tuesday as they worked to get an 18-wheeler full of turkeys backed into place on the square, offload that trailer and get a second trailer full of Mountain Dew also backed in to offload.
An abundance of Darlington police and many times more volunteers, though, made it work.
"It's usually around 1,000. We'll have plenty for this morning," Eads said of the turkey supply.
"I've been out here since 4:30 a.m.," said Henry Grimm who was appropriately bundled against the cold. He was third in line behind two woman who were covered head to toe with sleeping bags.
"Being out here, seeing who shows up and seeing how it turns out," said Grimm of his reason for turning out. "We appreciate the giving of the turkeys, that it's still going on. Everything has been kinda scarce of late. It's a blessing."
"It's turned into an annual event that people look forward to," Eads said. "You have both sides. People who are in desperate need and those for whom it has become a tradition to come out and be part of the community."