President George W. Bush pardons the Thanksgiving turkey during a Rose Garden
ceremony Monday, Nov. 24, 2003. "I appreciate you joining me to give this turkey a
presidential pardon," said the President in his remarks. "Stars is a very special
bird with a very special name. This year, for the first time, thousands of people
voted on the White House website to name the national turkey, and the alternate
turkey. Stars and Stripes beat out Pumpkin and Cranberry. And it was a
neck-to-neck race." White House photo by Paul Morse.
This year marks the 56th
anniversary of the first National Thanksgiving Turkey presentation. Though live Thanksgiving turkeys were presented intermittently to presidents since the Lincoln administration, the current event dates to 1947, when the first National Thanksgiving Turkey was presented to President Harry Truman.
The presentation at times has brushed against broader history. For example, the November 1963 event was one of President Kennedy's last in the Rose Garden. President Clinton, in 1996, returned from an Asian summit and literally went directly to the ceremony.
This year's turkey was picked
from among a group of 40 birds hatched on July 10 in a turkey barn in the Carthage, Missouri area.
A few minor modifications were made to prepare the turkeys for
the presentation. The 40-bird flock was segregated into a special area in the barn, and the turkeys
periodically were hand fed and given additional interaction with people in an effort to acclimate them to
the environment they will experience in the Rose Garden Ceremony.
By mid-fall, 15 finalists are selected. The week before the presentation, the National Turkey Federation chooses the National Thanksgiving Turkey and its alternate to bring to Washington. An alternate is chosen in case the National Thanksgiving Turkey cannot fulfill the responsibilities of being the National Turkey.
After the presentation, the turkeys will be taken to Frying Pan Park's Kidwell Farm where they will reside.
The public has spoken. Thousands of votes have been cast and "Stars and Stripes" are the winning
names of the Thanksgiving Turkey and runner up the President pardoned on November 24.
Lewis and Clark
Plymouth and Mayflower
Harvest and Bounty
Hope and Glory
Pumpkin and Cranberry
Stars and Stripes
November 26 Ask Jim Towey Director of the Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, Jim Towey answered your questions in a special Thanksgiving edition of Ask the White House.