TREMONT, Ill. (WMBD) — The 56th annual Tremont Turkey Festival kicks off Thursday, but it will not be possible without the hundreds of church volunteers who show up year after year.

The volunteers come from four area churches. They help thaw, carve and serve approximately 1,500 turkeys, according to Jack Moser, who has been cooking turkeys for the festival for more than 50 years.

“It’s quite an operation really. It takes a lot of people…Without the churches we couldn’t do this,” said Moser.

Moser said it takes a lot of work to prepare 1,500 turkeys. First, they thaw the turkeys out using cold water to speed up the process. Then they inject turkeys with “one pint of fluid mixture” then turkeys are cooked in batches of 60 for three hours.

“If we couldn’t have the churches, it would not work. It just takes too many people. There’s hundreds of people involved in this,” he said.

The volunteers also help out at the strawberry shortcake stand.

“The four churches in town… they volunteer and stem the berries for us the day they come. All of our berries come on Thursday morning and we distribute them to the churches and then they take it from there. They clean them, stem them, and bring them back and get them ready for festival time,” explained Heidi Chaney, strawberry shortcake chairperson at Tremont Turkey Festival.

Chaney said she orders shortcakes in advance based off the number from the previous year. She said putting on the festival would not be possible without volunteers.

“It takes a lot of manpower, it takes a lot of bucket washing. A lot of planning with the community, the churches… they stem berries…just making sure we get our orders in with everybody at the right time…It takes a village,” she said.”

Tremont Turkey Festival is from June 10-12.