Where do they come from, where do they go? — The woman behind Perham's turtles

Perham's turtles never go far, and that's thanks to Sandy Palubicki. "(Taking care of them) is pretty easy," she said. "They don’t talk back; they just kind of hang out."

Sandy Palubicki looks after Perham's racing turtles every summer. (Elizabeth Vierkant/Focus)

A lot of people wonder where the turtles from Perham's turtle races go between their races, said Perham Area Chamber of Commerce's information and visitor coordinator, Sandy Palubicki. Some have even asked if the city gets new turtles each week.

Yet, Perham's turtles only change once a summer and never go far, and that's thanks to Palubicki. "(Taking care of them) i s pretty easy," she said. "They don’t talk back; they just kind of hang out."

Over a decade ago, the turtles were looked after by Perham High School's FFA chapter between races. Once the FFA changed directors, one woman who lived in a farm and owned a sanctuary started looking after the turtles, however, she later grew busy. Because of this, Palubicki stepped in to help and started picking the turtles up herself after the races.

" I was like, ‘I should just be doing this myself.’ I had a place. I had a cage," Palubicki said. "It just kind of fell into my lap like that."

Palubicki lives on a farm, and, as she said, she already had a large cage. This cage, which is half in the sun and half in the shade, has tall grass, a pool and even sprinklers for the turtles.


She takes care of them when they're not racing, feeding them turtle pellets and minnows. Palubicki said that since she lives on a farm, she never has to go far. She also said that taking care of them isn't bad at all, as it's only for around 14 weeks out of the year.

Though, one year, the turtles did dig a hole, and some got a way from her on Fourth of July weekend.

"I was like, 'oh no!'" She laughed, "Now if they dig a hole, I have to block them."

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One of the winning turtles from Perham's first turtle races of 2021 crawls across the finish line on Wednesday, June 2. (Elizabeth Vierkant/Focus)

Palubicki starts off the summer by looking after around 35 turtles that are captured by a turtle trapper in the spring when turtles are first emerging from hibernation. Throughout the summer's races though, people will bring their own turtles and start donating them for the races.

By the end of the season, she has around 50. Because of that, she sometimes needs to start weeding them out before the races end.

Palubicki is particularly happy that the races are back in person for 2021 after the COVID-19 pandemic. " It’s just so fun putting smiles on kids’ faces," she said. "They get so excited. Last year, when we didn’t have turtle races, there were a lot of sad faces, and now this year, it’s so amazing to see smiles on their faces. They just love it."


She thinks it's amazing to see 200-500 kids participate in the races each Wednesday before they go off and shop in Perham.

By the time the races are done for the year, Palubicki releases the turtles into rivers, lakes and other miscellaneous places. "It's basic and easy to take care of turtles," she said.

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