Pardon Me: A Turkey Tradition
Contributed by Katie Gregg, Fall 2019 NTF intern
As an NTF intern, the one thing my friends and family always want to know about is the Presidential Turkeys.
“Do you get to pick the turkeys?” Grandma asks, to which my Dad guffaws, “You think they’d let the intern pick! Ha!”
Thanks for the vote of confidence, Dad. Anyways, I’m here to tell you all about the exciting role that NTF plays in the 72-year long tradition. It all started in 1947, when NTF presented Harry Truman with a live Thanksgiving turkey. However, the actual act of “pardoning” the bird didn’t start until 1989 when George W. Bush proclaimed,
“Our special guest seems . . . understandably nervous, but let me assure you, and this fine tom turkey, that he will not end up on anyone’s dinner table, not this guy. He’s granted a Presidential pardon as of right now…”
And so, began the time-honored tradition. Every year, NTF’s chairman, or a turkey farmer from the chairman’s home state, raises the Presidential Turkeys. The turkeys are exposed to lights, cameras and action early on in preparation for potential stardom.
Prior to Thanksgiving, the two birds are transported to Washington, D.C., for the National Thanksgiving Turkey Presentation at the White House. In recent years, it’s been put up for a vote on social media to decide which receives the title of National Thanksgiving Turkey and which is the alternate. But not to fret for the alternate, after receiving the Presidential Pardon, both birds retire to Virginia Tech to live out their days comfortably at “Gobbler’s Rest.”
Some of our favorite name combos have been “Peas and Carrots” and “Mac and Cheese.” What do you think the turkeys will be named this year?