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So how come the president always has to pardon a turkey, anyway?

November 22, 2012

As much as I dislike that particular tradition, this article about it was pretty fun.

Each year since 1947, the National Turkey Federation and the Poultry and Egg National Board have given a turkey to the President of the United States at a White House ceremony. Since then, presidents have been more likely to eat the turkey rather than give it a reprieve.

Presidents used to be real men.

This part is interesting:

A notable exception occurred in 1963, when President Kennedy, referring to the turkey given to him, said, “Let’s just keep him.”

Thanksgiving in 1963 was on November 28. JFK died on November 22. When exactly did he get that turkey? Or were they just discussing the annual fact of getting a turkey?

And where, exactly, were they going to keep “him?”

It wasn’t until the first Thanksgiving of President George H.W. Bush, in 1989, that a turkey was officially pardoned for the first time.

Betcha Reagan ate his.

Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush have continued the pardons begun under the first Bush. Some confusion about the true origin of this practice has crept into recent presidential speeches though. One story claims that Harry Truman pardoned the turkey given to him in 1947, but the Truman Library has been unable to find any evidence of this. Another story claims the tradition dates back to Abraham Lincoln pardoning his son Tad’s pet turkey.

I think I’ve heard that story.

What’s certain is that since 1989 a turkey—and its alternate—have been pardoned each year. An alternate is chosen just in case the first bird is unable to perform its duties.

Its duties of eating, crapping, and gobbling. What do they do if they have to go to the alternate, I wonder? Do they assign another alternate?

For fifteen years through 2004, the turkeys were given to Kidwell Farm, a petting zoo at Frying Pan Park in Herndon, Virginia. The turkeys would receive a last minute pardon before arriving, and were then led to their new home at the Turkey Barn after enduring a turkey “roast” full of poultry humor and history.

In 2005 and 2006, however, the turkeys were flown to Disneyland in California where they served as honorary grand marshals for Disneyland’s Thanksgiving Day parade. After that, they spent the rest of their lives at a Disneyland ranch.

Ha. Sweet. Betcha Darth Vader’ll change that, though. You’ve never seen a turkey carved with such ease.


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