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Presidential Turkey Pardon

Songfacts for Free Bird

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But most of us today will be seeing this bird looking more like this...

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Each year the President of the United States pardons a turkey before Thanksgiving at a White House ceremony. The tradition's origin is uncertain. One story claims that Harry Truman pardoned a turkey in 1947, but the Truman Library has been unable to find any evidence for this. Another claims that the tradition dates back to Abraham Lincoln pardoning his son Tad's pet turkey. Both of these stories have been cited in recent presidential speeches.

What's certain is that for many years a turkey—and its alternate—have been pardoned each year. An alternate is chosen just in case the first bird is unable to perform its duties. For fifteen years through 2004, the turkeys were given to Kidwell Farm, a petting zoo at Frying Pan Park in Herndon, Virginia. The turkeys would receive a last minute pardon before arriving, and were then led to their new home at the Turkey Barn after enduring a turkey "roast" full of poultry humor and history.

In 2005 and 2006, however, the turkeys were flown to Disneyland in California where they served as honorary grand marshals for Disneyland's Thanksgiving Day parade. After that, they spent the rest of their lives at a Disneyland ranch. A spot in sunny Disneyland seems immensely preferable to a place called Frying Pan Park if you happen to be a turkey who has just escaped from becoming the main course of someone's Thanksgiving feast.

In 2006, President Bush gave two turkeys named Flyer and Fryer a last-minute reprieve. The two hailed from Monett, Missouri. For the fourth time, the American public was allowed to vote for the turkeys' names on the White House web site. 2005's turkeys were named Marshmallow and Yam; 2004's were named Biscuit and Gravy; and 2003's were Stars and Stripes.

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