While over 46 million turkeys are getting ready to take center stage at the dinner table this evening, two - Popcorn and his lucky spare, Caramel, are trotting away to George Washington's Mt. Vernon Estate and Gardens in Virginia, where they will impress visitors during the holidays, before moving to their permanent retirement home in Leesburg's Morven Park.
The fortunate toms that were hatched on July 8th, are part of a six-member Presidential flock chosen by fourth generation turkey farmer John Burkel, from about eighty contenders. Raised in the tiny town of Badger, Minnesota, they were selected as the finalists after they showed the calm demeanor required of birds that were going to be pardoned by the President of the United States of America.
However that was just the beginning - The two 20lbs gorgeous toms were then moved to a special heated garden shed that looked more like a Presidential cottage complete with patriotic bunting on the windows, to undergo special training. This involved exposing them to loud noises and bright lights, so that they would be unflappable on the big day, when surrounded with similar chaos.
All that training certainly paid off. Despite the cold & dreary weather and throngs of people cheering on, Popcorn, the tom chosen for the pardoning, stood calm and collected, as President Obama declared - "Popcorn, you have a full reprieve from cranberry sauce and stuffing. We wish you well".
Now in its 66th year, the turkey pardoning tradition is believed to have been started by President Truman. However, it was not until 1989, that George H. W. Bush established it as an annual White House ritual. Originally, the clemency was granted to only one bird. But after a naughty one named Liberty escaped before he could be pardoned by former President Ronald Reagan, there began a new tradition of bringing in a spare!
in 2012, President Obama added a fun twist, by asking the general public to vote on Facebook, which of the two turkeys should be picked for pardoning. This year, Popcorn won the votes by a slim margin! Not that it mattered to Caramel, who was also spared and just got to revel in the festivities, without the pressure!
Besides getting to visit the White House and meet the President, both turkeys were also treated to first class travel to Washington D.C. and two nights in a beautiful suite at the city's historic Willard Hotel, where they dined on acorns, berries and corn.
Following the ceremony, the two left for Virginia, where they will stay until January 6th, 2014, before moving to their permanent retirement home in Leesburg. We wish Popcorn and Caramel a long and healthy life. As for the rest of the birds? All we can say is GOBBLE GOBBLE!
HAVE A HAPPY AND SAFE THANKSGIVING!