PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- If you cook it, they will come. And they will arrive early.
Early birds got in line before 4 a.m. to get their Thanksgiving turkey cooked in the brick oven at Cacia's Bakery on Ritner Street in South Philadelphia.
"I got here at 3:50 a.m.," said Jumbo Nathan Daniels. "You have to get here early."
One by one, customers bring their birds into the bakery, already stuffed, seasoned and wrapped in foil. For $29, the Cacia's staff will slow roast each turkey to perfection in the brick oven CBS3 was inside the bakery as owner Sam Cacia greeted customers and handed birds to his son Joey, who was filling up the oven.
The turkeys will be the centerpiece at family dinner tables across the region.
"It's exciting, it's different," Joey Cacia said. "You're cooking for thousands of people ... I don't do that every day, so it's something to look forward to."
The turkey tradition is well known at the bakery. "We've been in the neighborhood for 70 years, it's our 70th year," Sam Cacia said.
"My grandfather says that he started cooking neighbors' turkeys," he added. "The neighbors started telling other neighbors, and they started bringing their turkeys on Thanksgiving, and it just grew and grew. Now everybody knows that we cook turkeys on Thanksgiving. So it's a big thing now."
Customers started going into the bakery at 5 a.m. Sam Cacia was there bright and early.
"When my alarm goes off Thanksgiving morning, I go 'oh, maybe I won't do this next year,'" he said. "But it's just, it's in you. You can't. That's all I know, since I was 12 years old, I come here on Thanksgiving morning and do this."
But he said Cacia's doesn't plan on stopping the tradition any time soon: "no, no, it's something we have to do."
Curtis Mcallister of Nicetown arrived as one of the early birds, pushing a cart that held a 21-pound turkey.
"It was really cold last year and I was holding the turkey," Mcallister said. "My hands wouldn't let the pan loose." So this year he's been rolling the turkey around. It was strapped to a cart and wrapped in tin foil.
This Thanksgiving is the third time Mcallister has brought a turkey to Cacia's.
"They're going to cook it, it's going to be nice, moist, fresh. I took 24 hours to brine this turkey...I don't want to mess it up."
Hours later, customers return to collect their cooked turkey and give thanks for their hassle-free holiday.
"This is absolutely a wonderful tradition and I think that it's all part of giving. And we give from the heart," said Anita DeFrancesca of South Philadelphia. "And it is that day to give, right?"
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