Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/washington/news.aspx?id=70625
Story Retrieval Date: 5/18/2013 5:10:35 PM CST
WASHINGTON – Americans have many odd traditions. But the annual Thanksgiving presidential pardoning of the turkeys has to be the weirdest of them all.
That’s right: Every year the leader of the free world gives a full pardon to an overfed fluffy white turkey. Dig in for the details on this wacky tradition.
Who was the first president to pardon a turkey?
Harry Truman is typically cited as granting the first presidential turkey pardon in 1947. most recently by President Bush this week. However, new info suggests that Truman simply received a turkey as a gift from of the Poultry and Egg National Board and other representatives of the turkey industry at an outdoor ceremony at the White House. Pardon or not, the Annual Turkey Ceremony has a special place in American history. Abraham Lincoln supposedly once spared a Christmas turkey because his son Tad argued it had as much of a right to live as a person. In one of his last public appearances, John F. Kennedy saved a turkey from the dinner table just days before his assassination.
The first President Bush and Bill Clinton definitely had pardoning ceremonies for their turkeys so the tradition now is established as a bipartisan event.
How many turkeys get saved from the table?
The president pardons two turkeys, just in case one gets stage fright.
Where do the turkeys come from?
This year, the duo was raised by Dubois, Ind., farmer Ted Seger, who is also the chairman of the National Turkey Federation. The 21-week-old birds weighed in at 45 pounds each. They were raised using normal feeding and spent a lot of time with people so they would be docile and camera-ready during their star roles at the White House Ceremony.
Do the turkeys have names?
Of course! This year, they were named May and Flower by the American public via an online popular vote. In past years, the turkeys have been named Stars and Stripes, Marshmallow and Yam, Flyer and Fryer and Biscuits and Gravy. In 2002, the national turkey, Katie, was named after the daughter of leader of the National Turkey Federation. This year, Bush said Vice President Dick Cheney wanted to name the turkeys Lunch and Dinner. Not Scooter and Libby?
What happens to the turkeys after the ceremony?
In years past, they’ve lived out their days at a Virginian petting zoo called Frying Pan Park. This year, before they retire to what the president called “blissful gobbling,” May and Flower will fly first to Disney World to be the grand marshals of the Thanksgiving Day Parade.
So where are the past turkeys now?
Because the turkeys are raised to be so large for the ceremony, they reportedly rarely live past the next Thanksgiving. After dying from natural causes, they’re buried at Frying Pan Park.