Wednesday, November 23

Begging your (turkey) pardon

People seem to think the President of the United States has nothing better to do than pardon turkeys, but that's not so.

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 were more likely to eat the turkey rather than give it a reprieve. A notable exception occurred in 1963, when President Kennedy, referring to the turkey given to him, said, "Let's just keep him."

It wasn't until 1989 that a turkey was officially pardoned for the first time by
President George H.W. Bush. Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush continued the tradition. 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.

Supposedly, Lincoln's 10-year-old son, Tad Lincoln, christened
a bird given to Honest Abe in 1863 as "Jack" and was therefore less than delighted by the prospect of having his feathered friend served for the family's Christmas feast. The boy, it is said, burst into one of his father's cabinet meetings to plead for the bird's life, a request Lincoln agreed to.

For 15 years through 2004, the presidential turkeys were given to Kidwell Farm, a petting zoo at Frying Pan Park in Herndon, Virg. 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. (Disneyland seems much better than a place called Frying Pan Park!)

I can find no word on the fate of the turkeys since 2007. I know President Obama pardoned a turkey, but where did it go?

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