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Turkey Day — dunes style
At Les Becktole's camp at Buttercup Thursday, among the clanks of the horseshoe game and lively chatter, the radio plays a familiar tune by Hank Williams Jr.
But family tradition has another meaning at the Imperial Sand Dunes for Thanksgiving.
Hundreds of the camps are families, families that have been coming out to the dunes for years and celebrating the holiday with their loved ones - and new friends made along the way.
For Becktole, who retired from North Dakota to Queen Creek last year, Thursday was his first time at the recreation area, but his family has spent Thanksgiving at the dunes for about 10 years.
They hail from Mesa, Chandler and other parts of Arizona, and include everyone from great-grandparents to cousins. There's even "one in the oven" at the camp, said Melody Anderson of Chandler.
"It's an annual thing we do out here on Thanksgiving," Anderson said.
And just after noon on Thursday, Anderson said their turkey was in the fryer.
At the Willis camp just up the road, they needed more than one turkey.
Jon Willis of Mesa said there's anywhere from 30 to 40 people at their camp; they've got five to six turkeys to feed everyone. The group has been coming out to the dunes for Thanksgiving for about 20 years he said - even before some of the guys in their group could walk.
Thursday, Willis and a group of about six others jumped their bikes at Buttercup, and in the process drew a small crowd.
But when Willis relayed the message that mom said the turkeys were done, the group was off.
There were a few Yumans at the dunes Thursday.
Michael and Mary Callahan, along with Joe Rochester and family, have been coming out for Thanksgiving for about five years, but Michael said the guys in their group have been coming for at least 10 years.
"It's definitely more relaxing," Mary Callahan said of spending the holiday at the dunes.
Michael Callahan cited "riding" as one of his favorite reasons for the tradition.
And then, "the riding again," he said jokingly.
Their camp also deep-fried a turkey, and they already had turkey tacos planned for leftovers, they said.
The group also said they enjoy being around others who enjoy the same activities.
And Michael Callahan said "the weather, you can't beat it."
Thursday, duners got exactly that with a bright blue sky and mild temperatures.
That's just one of the reasons that keep the holiday tradition going at the Imperial Sand Dunes.
Becktole said spending the holiday at the dunes is so much fun, Thanksgiving won't be the last.
"Oh, I'm loving it. We're going to come out here for Easter, too."