The well known Breschini "Turkey Shoots" were held at Blanco from 1911 to 1925. Watkins, in his 1925 history, writes that up to 5,000 people attended, with 1,000 to 1,500 turkeys being distributed among the winners.
The "Turkey Shoots" were actually an outgrowth of an old tradition. In Switzerland, all able-bodied men were expected to develop and maintain their abilities as marksmen as the first line of defense against foreign aggression. Following this tradition, the Monterey County Swiss Rifle Club was formed in 1900 in the Blanco area by a group of 14 immigrants from Canton Ticino, in southern Switzerland.
For many years there were three target shoots a year, as well as an annual Turkey Shoot just before Thanksgiving in which live birds were used as targets. Most of the early shoots were held just north of Salinas, about where the freeway crosses under North Main Street. Other shoots were held in Gonzales and on the Pedrazzi ranch in Buena Vista until a permanent site was purchased north of Gonzales. The Swiss Rifle Club is still an active organization.
Three of the 14 founding members were brothers, John (Giovanni), Steve (Stefano), and Bernardo Breschini, who farmed in the Blanco area. Beginning in 1911, John Breschini began hosting annual turkey shoots just before Thanksgiving--we don't know if this was an official part of the Swiss Rifle Club's activities, or had become separate. John bought the Blanco Store in 1900, and in 1910 built the Breschini Emporium in Blanco, and that is where the event was held.
Early crowds arrived in horse and buggies, as there were few cars in 1911. There were raffles, dice games, and a numbers wheel; bets were placed and the prizes were live turkeys. There was also a barbecue, with beef, beans, salsa, and garlic bread, at a cost of 50¢. Salads were not on the menu! Beer and wine were served, and the saloon in the Emporium did a brisk business. In addition to the sport of shooting, the event offered a chance to visit with friends and relatives. Ernest Breschini, son of John Breschini, remembers that attendance was well over 1,000--at a time when the population of Salinas was less than 5,000 people!
Copyright 2000 by G.S. Breschini
- Verzasconi, Lorio, Monterey County Swiss Rifle Club: An Informal and Pictorial History (privately printed, Gonzales, California, 1977).
- Watkins, Rolin C., History of Monterey and Santa Cruz Counties, California (S.J. Clarke Publishing Company, Chicago, 1925).