Family celebrates 35th year of football tradition


SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WCIA)– While many were out shopping Friday morning, one family was outside competing for bragging rights and a chocolate football.
For three and a half decades, family in Central Illinois has come together for a post thanksgiving game of football. Dozens of family members braved the chilly temperatures to be a part of the game. Many said they would not miss it for anything.

Every year, the 10 siblings of the Kienzler family and their families come out for the turkey bowl.

“It’s the 35th year, every fifth year is a special year,” said Joyce Vyncke, sixth child in the Kienzler family.

It is so special, family members from far and wide come back to the Kienzler’s hometown of Springfield to be a part of it.

“We’re kind of dispersed now. Five or six live here in Springfield but the rest of us live in Indiana, Michigan, Kentucky, we cover a lot of different states so this is kind of the one holiday we all get together for,” said Sharon Gleason, eighth child in the Kienzler family.

Some even skip the turkey in favor of the pigskin instead. “It’s kind of grown to where the members of the family, if they don’t come home for Thanksgiving, most of the kids and the grandkids come home the day after so they can participate in the game,” said Joanne Vanleer, seventh child in the Kienzler family.

After they traveled all this way, of course players want to get the game-winning grab. “It’s not a small thing. We are playing for a chocolate football and to get your name on that trophy. So you’ve got to come out here and bring your all,” said Gleason.

Not matter how competitive folks may get on the field, relatives said it’s all about making sure the family stays together. We’re really blessed. We have 10 brothers and sisters and both of our parents are gone and this has just been a way to keep that closeness of our family. We’re really blessed that we do have a really close family and that everyone wants to come home and be apart of this,” said Vanleer.

Members of the family range in age from less than one to 71.
Relatives said members receive their Kienzler jersey when they are born or married into the family.

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