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Annual Turkey Ceremony 2004

President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney participate in the annual pardoning of the National Turkey in the Rose Garden Nov. 17, 2004. »


In Focus: Thanksgiving 2003

This year marks the 57th anniversary of the National Thanksgiving Turkey presentation. Though live Thanksgiving turkeys have been presented intermittently to presidents since the Lincoln administration, the current ceremony 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. The first President Bush conducted the 1990 ceremony just before leaving for Thanksgiving with the troops in the Persian Gulf region. President Clinton in 1996 returned from an Asian summit and literally went directly to the ceremony.

The National Thanksgiving Turkey and its alternate were raised in Mathias, WV, under the direction of National Turkey Federation Chairman John O'Carroll. Mr. Carroll delegated the day to day responsibilities to the live production team at Cargill Turkey Products. facilities in the Shenandoah Valley. They selected the farm of Kevin Foltz in Mathias, WV, to raise the National Thanksgiving Day turkeys. The birds are commercial turkeys used in normal industry production, and they were raised using the same techniques as other commercial birds. They were fed a regular diet of corn and soybean meal and were provided a continuous supply of fresh water.

A few minor modifications were made to prepare the birds for the National Thanksgiving Turkey presentation. About 30 turkeys were removed from the normal commercial production flock and are being raised separately on the Foltz farm. The birds are periodically hand fed and given additional interaction with people in an effort to acclimate them to the environment they will experience during the Rose Garden ceremony. Mr. Foltz's children . Kolby, Kollin and Korey - have done most of the work "socializing" the turkeys. Mr. O.Carroll, in consultation with Mr. Foltz, will choose the two turkeys that travel to the ceremony (an alternate is chosen in case the National Thanksgiving Turkey becomes ill or otherwise cannot participate). The selection of the National Thanksgiving Turkey and its alternate will be made within two or three days of the presentation.

The turkeys will be about 22 weeks old by Thanksgiving and are expected weigh about 40 pounds at the time of the presentation.

Presidents traditionally have granted the National Thanksgiving Turkey a "pardon". The National Thanksgiving Turkey and its alternate will spend the remainder of their natural lives at the Frying Pan Park in Fairfax County, Virginia. This is the same place to which the Thanksgiving Day Turkeys and their alternates have been retired for the past 15 years. The farm is a 1930s-era replica farm operated by the Fairfax County Parks Department.

After the presentation, the turkeys will be taken to Frying Pan Park's Kidwell Farm where they will reside.

The public has spoken. 19,581 votes have been cast and "Biscuits and Gravy" are the winning names of the Thanksgiving Turkey and runner up the President pardoned on November 17.

Pumpkin and Cranberry
Biscuits and Gravy
Patience and Fortitude
Adams and Jefferson
Gobble and Peck
Salt and Pepper

Check out our photo gallery since first National Thanksgiving Turkey was presented to President Harry Truman. » Learn more

November 26, 2003
Jim Towey, Director of the Faith-Based and Community Initiatives

November 25, 2003
Walter Scheib, White House Chef

November 21, 2003
JD Estes, The Turkey Guy

November 23, 2004
President's Thanksgiving Proclamation

November 17, 2004
President Pardons "Biscuits and Gravy" in Annual Turkey Ceremony

November 24, 2003
President Pardons National Thanksgiving Turkey

November 21, 2003
Proclamation by the President: Thanksgiving Day 2003

November 30, 2002
President Thanks Military and Volunteers in Radio Address

November 26, 2002
National Thanksgiving Turkey Spared

November 22, 2002
Thanksgiving Day, 2002

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