These colorful turkeys seem to know they are something special. In vibrant shades of orange, pink and yellow, how could they not?
Colored turkeys are a longtime tradition at Gozzi's Turkey Farm in Guilford, Connecticut, drawing generations of families who delight in watching the brightly hued birds gobble and cluck for the crowd.
"Believe it or not, they become hams out there after a while," says Bill Gozzi, the farm's third-generation owner. "The males strut around, and the females kind of show off. They like the attention."
Shortly after Gozzi's grandparents started the farm in 1940, his grandmother Martha began displaying colored turkeys. What she created as a treat for kids who lived nearby turned into an attraction for fans young and old. Kids come on school field trips; senior citizens arrive by van.
"My grandmother started it years ago as a fun thing for the kids in the neighborhood, and it caught on and just busloads of kids come now," Gozzi said. "It's a tradition for a lot of people. I get a lot of people saying, 'My grandparents brought me here, and now I'm bringing my kids.'"
Don't expect an answer to the question Gozzi, 54, is continually asked: How do the white turkeys get their color?
"Can't tell you. Family secret," Gozzi says, allowing that genetics are not involved. "Kids ask, 'Is it in the egg?' 'Is it in the feed?' We just let everybody use their own imagination."
About a dozen of the colorful turkeys are set out in a pen every year around the first week of November and stay out until the farm shuts down the day before Christmas.
The arrival of this year's turkeys, turned out in yellow, orange, red, pink, blue and green, was announced on Facebook last week, and drew more than a thousand likes and shares.
A trip to see the toms and hens is a holiday tradition for many.
Christa Trudeau, 36, started visiting the turkeys when she was 2, and has never missed a year. She and her older sister chased each other around the pen when they were little, Trudeau kept up her visits when she was home from college, and she continues the weekend trips with her children, 7-year-old Camden and 10-year-old Emma.
"I guess there was never a time it wasn't important," says Trudeau, of North Branford, Connecticut.
What is it about those turkeys that keeps her going back?
"It's just so bizarre," Trudeau says. "It seems almost like a cartoon. It's like a fantasy, it seems so unrealistic. If you happened upon it and had never seen it, I imagine the first time you would see it, it would make no sense. But it's so silly, it makes you laugh."
Deanna Broderick of Guilford has gone to see the color spectacle for about 30 years as well. She took her daughters when they were young, and now visits with her 4-year-old granddaughter, Mila. Broderick, 55, went on her own during the years without little ones around.
With their colorful feathers, she describes the birds as "magical." "They took an ugly bird and made it pretty," Broderick says. "They know they're pretty. They walk around like, 'Look at me.'"
"There's so much negativity in the world, and everybody's so busy, it just makes you stop for a minute and think and look, and I think it's great," Broderick added. "It puts a smile on your face."
She loves taking Mila to the farm, where she collects colored feathers for art projects and walks quickly around the pen, flapping her arms and gobbling and the turkeys follow her on their side of the fence. The two laugh when they watch the turkeys waddle as they run.
"It thrills me to death she enjoys doing the same thing I like to do," Broderick says. "I like to watch her interact with them, be kind and talk quietly to them and laugh at something simple that's not technology."
Gozzi knows how much people adore the turkeys; they thank him every day. "It brings joy to a lot of people," he said.
On the farm, which sells fresh turkeys only during the holiday season, the colored ones stand out for another reason.
"Those are the only ones walking around here Thanksgiving morning," Gozzi said. "They're the lucky ones."