While other turkeys across the nation are served for Thanksgiving dinner,the two birds have been spared with an official pardon by President George W. Bush.
“Just to be safe,I will be pardoning a second bird in the unlikely event the main act chickens out,” Bush said Wednesday at a Rose Garden ceremony.
Only Pumpkin was visible to the audience. Bush said that Pecan was in an undisclosed location. Both were to be flown aboard “Turkey One” to Disneyland Wednesday afternoon,where Pumpkin will serve as the grand marshal of the Thanksgiving Day Parade. Afterward,both will squawk around the Frontierland section of the park for the rest of their lives.
Paul Hill,chairman of the National Turkey Federation,raised the two turkeys with his grandsons on his Ellsworth,Iowa,farm.
“We selected these turkeys at 9 weeks of age,” Hill said. “It's friends they grew up with were slaughtered today.”
Hill said that the two went through extensive training to be the fine,proper birds they are today. The White House checked to make sure that the turkeys could handle live music and not attempt to run or fly away at the sight of large crowds.
The night before,the lucky poultry stayed with members of the federation in a room at the Willard Intercontinental Washington hotel two blocks from the White House. They were brought to the Rose Garden about an hour before the event to avoid any anxiety. Hill said that the two turkeys adapted well to the cold Washington morning and will do just fine in sunny California.
The names of the birds were chosen in an online contest on the White House Web site. Past winners included May and Flower in 2007, Flyer and Fryer in 2006 and Marshmallow and Yam in 2005.
The annual White House ceremony dates to President Harry Truman,Bush said. The president also remarked that this was his last Thanksgiving as president. He and the first lady were to leave for the weekend at Camp David later in the day.
In a quick holiday switch,Mrs. Bush is scheduled to accept the White House Christmas tree Sunday and show off the mansion's holiday decorations on Wednesday.
The president expressed gratitude for the continued work of U.S. armed forces overseas. He also said he was thankful for the improving health of his mother,Barbara Bush,who had emergency surgery early Wednesday at a Houston hospital for a perforated stomach ulcer.
“Most of all,I thank the American people for the tremendous privilege of serving as the president … I wish all Americans a Happy Thanksgiving,and may God bless you,” Bush said.