WILLMAR — Jennie-O Turkey Store will return this year to the streets of New York City, represented on national TV with a glittering turkey-shaped float in the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Nicole Behne, vice president of marketing for Jennie-O Turkey Store in Willmar, was one of the main voices advocating for the business' inclusion in the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in 2020. Jennie-O will have a float in the annual parade for the second year in a row. Contributed / Jennie-O Turkey Store
Nicole Behne, vice president of marketing for Jennie-O Turkey Store in Willmar, was one of the main voices advocating for the business' inclusion in the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in 2020. Jennie-O will have a float in the annual parade for the second year in a row. Contributed / Jennie-O Turkey Store
The Willmar-based turkey producer made its parade debut to a noticeably smaller crowd during 2020, and hopes that this year will be well-attended. In addition, Jennie-O's parade entry is a partnership with entertainer Tai Verdes, who will perform his hit single "A-OK" from aboard the float.

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"This is our second year in the Macy's (Thanksgiving) Day parade, and I can't even believe it but it's the 95th Macy's (Thanksgiving) Day parade this year," said Nicole Behne, vice president of marketing at Jennie-O. "And only year two that they've had a turkey company in the parade, which blew my mind when they came here to Jennie-O two years ago."

In this image taken from video, the base of the Jennie-O Turkey Store float waits for the head of the turkey to be lowered and welded into place. Willmar-based Jennie-O Turkey Store will have a float in the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City for the second year in a row. Contributed / Jennie-O Turkey Store
In this image taken from video, the base of the Jennie-O Turkey Store float waits for the head of the turkey to be lowered and welded into place. Willmar-based Jennie-O Turkey Store will have a float in the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City for the second year in a row. Contributed / Jennie-O Turkey Store
Jennie-O leapt at the opportunity to put its hat in the ring — that is, its float in the parade — and soon a gold and green turkey was being built in the Macy's Parade Studio in Moonachie, New Jersey.

"What says Thanksgiving more than the Macy's (Thanksgiving) Day Parade?" Behne said. "But there's never been another turkey company in the parade, and so we thought that would be a great way for us to get people to think about Jennie-O and be a part of their family traditions."

Dial 1-800-TURKEYS for turkey emergencies

Jennie-O customers may remember receiving turkey dinner counsel from celebrity chefs, courtesy of the company's annual turkey hotline. This year, instead of tips and tricks from celebrities, customers are welcome to call around the clock with turkey emergencies, and someone will be there with advice.

Willmar-based Jennie-O Turkey Store will have a float in the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City for the second year in a row. The turkey-shaped float is painted gold, and features a giant turkey with two chicks hiding beneath its hat. Contributed / Jennie-O Turkey Store
Willmar-based Jennie-O Turkey Store will have a float in the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City for the second year in a row. The turkey-shaped float is painted gold, and features a giant turkey with two chicks hiding beneath its hat. Contributed / Jennie-O Turkey Store
"We're kinda just changing it up," Behne said of the turkey hotline. "Every year we're doing a little bit something different, and this year our something different is adding 24/7 turkey tip hotline support leading up to a few days before Thanksgiving."

In addition to recipe ideas, the hotline support staff can also answer questions about most things turkey, including how big of a bird to get for the number of guests you're expecting, how to dress up or dress down your turkey, and when to start thawing Thanksgiving's most expected addition to the table.

"It's always fun to just get on the phone and be a resource for our consumers as they're preparing their Thanksgiving," Behne said.

Customers can also find answers to many of their questions online at Jennie-O's website: www.jennieo.com. An additional online-only feature is Jennie-O's "turkey tracker," which can tell customers from which farm their turkey came, and introduce them to the farmers who raised the bird.

In this image taken from video, a worker with the Macy's Parade Studio sprinkles green glitter over a part of the Jennie-O Turkey Store float in 2020. Willmar-based Jennie-O will have a float in the annual parade in New York City for the second year in a row. Contributed / Jennie-O Turkey Store
In this image taken from video, a worker with the Macy's Parade Studio sprinkles green glitter over a part of the Jennie-O Turkey Store float in 2020. Willmar-based Jennie-O will have a float in the annual parade in New York City for the second year in a row. Contributed / Jennie-O Turkey Store
"Our website has a great amount of resources available for our consumers, how to buy a turkey, how to brine a turkey, how to thaw a turkey, how to cook the turkey," Behne said, adding that there's even a calculator to answer the question of "How much turkey do I need if I (want to) have leftovers?", so she recommends customers look to the website in addition to the hotline.

"The hotline is really for those people who might need a little bit more help, or (who) have specific questions or who can't find their answer (online)," she said. "Our consumer response folks ... are really concerned about food safety, on one hand, and they are also turning out to be almost therapists for some of the people calling in — walking them through what their options are and what they can do and how we can help them through their mini-crisis they might be having."

In the event of a turkey crisis, the hotline can be reached at 1-800-TURKEYS, or 1-800-887-5397, during business hours now through Nov. 21. Around-the-clock support will begin Nov. 21 and run through Thanksgiving. Customers can also text the word "turkey" to 73876 to reach Jennie-O customer support, or reach out through social media channels.

Turkey back on the menu for 2021 gatherings

After a year of smaller, more intimate family gatherings in 2020, extended families may be invited to the table in 2021, based on results from a consumer survey conducted by Jennie-O.

In this image taken from video, workers in the Macy's Parade Studio put the finishing details on the head of the Jennie-O Turkey Store turkey-shaped float in 2020. Willmar-based Jennie-O Turkey Store will have a float in the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City for the second year in a row. Contributed / Jennie-O Turkey Store
In this image taken from video, workers in the Macy's Parade Studio put the finishing details on the head of the Jennie-O Turkey Store turkey-shaped float in 2020. Willmar-based Jennie-O Turkey Store will have a float in the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City for the second year in a row. Contributed / Jennie-O Turkey Store
"We conducted a survey this year and asked consumers what their Thanksgiving plans were so we had a little more information as the 'turkey experts' at the leading turkey company here in America," Behne said.

Jennie-O partnered with a company called OnePoll to survey its customers on a number of questions, from how they plan to celebrate Thanksgiving, to the size of turkey customers were eyeing, to how they planned to prepare their bird — 34% planned on serving fried turkey, compared to 51% looking at roasted turkey for Thanksgiving dinner.

That doesn't mean everyone is rushing out to get their perfect bird now, however. Thirty-six percent of respondents said they planned on picking out their turkey the week before Thanksgiving. Sixty-two percent of respondents are hoping Thanksgiving 2021 will mark a return to normal after a disrupted holiday season due to COVID-19 in 2020.

"A majority of folks responded that they will be planning to buy a bigger turkey than they have in the past," Behne said. "The hard part is quantifying what that means," because it could be anywhere in the size range. Either way, Jennie-O has plenty of options for consumers, whether "they only had a turkey breast before and they're maybe going to go up to a small whole bird, or if they had a small whole bird and they're maybe going to go up to a larger whole bird."

Willmar-based Jennie-O Turkey Store will have a float in the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City for the second year in a row. Contributed / Jennie-O Turkey Store
Willmar-based Jennie-O Turkey Store will have a float in the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City for the second year in a row. Contributed / Jennie-O Turkey Store
And, if people aren't stuffed too full of turkey and all the good food that accompanies it, don't forget about the Jennie-O dance challenge for the entire family: The Jennie-O Turkey Dance, created in partnership with Phil Wright and World of Dance, which can be found online at tiktok.com/@jennieobrand.

"Along with Tai being our performer, and the launch of our turkey dance, #dotheJennieOturkeydance, we hope to have a really fantastic presence on TikTok this year and start to create some fun memories and viral fun with people all over America doing this Jennie-O turkey dance at the Thanksgiving tables and really having fun with dancing and with creating a new tradition with Jennie-O," Behne said.