President Bush pardoned a turkey in an annual Thanksgiving ceremony today. After the ceremony, the turkeys were sent off to Disneyland, where they will be honored as grand marshals in a parade and will spend the rest of their lives in Disneyland’s Big Thunder Ranch in Frontierland.
The 20 week old, 44 pound pardoned turkey is named Pumpkin, as chosen by Americans across the country through the democratic process by voting online.
“Just to be safe, I will be pardoning a second bird in the unlikely event the main act chickens out,” President Bush said. The alternate turkey is named Pecan.
The event, which dates back to the presidency of Harry Truman, was held in the Rose Garden of the White House.
“It’s a part of American history. I love history. This is every bit as much history as the State of the Union or the President giving a press conference,” ceremony attendee John Gizzi said. “I wouldn’t miss it. This is a ritual.”
During Disneyland’s 50th anniversary celebration, Disney approached the National Turkey Federation about hosting the turkeys in the park. This trip will be the fourth consecutive year that the National Thanksgiving Turkey has been hosted at a Disney park. The turkeys alternate years between living in Disneyland in California and at the Magic Kingdom in Florida.
“It’s a great relationship with Disney,” National Turkey Federation Chairman Paul Hill said.
The turkeys were hatched and raised in the Hill family farm in Ellsworth, Iowa.
”I went to my grandsons Collin and Connor, ages 8 and 9, and asked them to raise the turkeys for us,” he said.
“We selected 13 originally. We looked for conformity in the body, how they walk and personality traits,” Hill said.
Two weeks ago, Pumpkin and Pecan were chosen as the ones who would be pardoned.
The turkeys must be carefully trained in order to interact with the guests who will visit them at Disneyland.
“We have to spend a lot of time to get them that tame. We have to train those turkeys to sit quietly there. The last thing you want that turkey to do is to launch,” Hill said.
“Later today, they [the turkeys] will fly to Disneyland aboard “Turkey One,” President Bush said.
The Hill family will go there too to work with the cast members at Disneyland. Hill expects that the birds will live about two to three years there. They will be put on a feeding diet to take some weight off, and will enjoy life at Disneyland’s petting zoo.
Bush concluded the ceremony giving thanks to our men and women in uniform, volunteers, his family and the American people. And in keeping with tradition he said, “Pumpkin and Pecan are hereby granted a full and unconditional – unconditional presidential pardon.”
Share in the National Thanksgiving Turkey at home by watching a video of the White House pardon and watching the turkey live from Disneyland by clicking here.
Photos by Sally French. Top left: President Bush stands with students from Cloverly Elementary School after pardoning the turkeys. Middle right: Bush honors the Thanksgiving tradition of turkey pardoning in a White House Ceremony. Bottom left: Bill and Molly Webb from Vienna, Virginia pet Pumpkin after he is pardoned.