Reporting Liz Collin
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – It’s not even Halloween, but we’re already talking turkey as some Minnesota students are raising the bird that will be pardoned by President Obama this Thanksgiving.
Twelve hundred miles from Pennsylvania Avenue in a top secret location near the freshly plowed fields of Willmar, there is a flock of presidential possibilities.
Val Brown is one of four F.F.A. students involved with the project.
“You don’t want them flopping around up there and hitting Obama in the face. That would be bad,” Brown said.
They’ve been working with 31 birds for the last five weeks, but only one will be spared.
Brianna Hoover is also involved with the assignment.
“They feel like family or like a pet now, because we are around them every day,” Hoover said.
Just being among the turkeys is a big part of the training. They need to get used to conversation and loud noise so they aren’t scared on the big day.
Beyond all the racket, there is a lot of care and cleaning, such as scrubbing their water bowls.
Steve Olson is the executive director of the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association.
“This is hugely exciting for the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association and Willmar Poultry. We’re carrying on a tradition,” Olson said.
Minnesota last led that tradition in 2005, when a turkey from Henning by the name of Marshmallow was pardoned.
The first official ceremony dates back to 1989 when George H. W. Bush formalized it. Before that, president’s would eat the bird.
The students involved in the project hope to bring a new appreciation for the turkey as Americans prepare for their Thanksgiving feasts.
“We should appreciate it every year, but especially this year,” Olson said.
Two turkeys will be picked to take the trip to Washington D.C. next month and stay in a swanky hotel. In the end, just one will be pardoned by the president and then go to live at Mount Vernon.
It’s up to the president of the National Turkey Federation to pick the pardoned turkey. This year’s president is from Willmar. Minnesota is the top turkey producing state in the country.
You can follow the project here.