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President Barack Obama “pardoned” the National Thanksgiving Turkey in a White House Ceremony, as he and National Turkey Federation (NTF) chairman Steve Willardsen celebrated the 65th anniversary of the National Thanksgiving Turkey presentation.
Willardsen presented President Obama with “Cobbler,” a 19-week old, 40-pound tom. The names of the turkeys were chosen from submissions from elementary schools in Rockingham County, Va., where the turkeys were raised. Many of the submissions came from schools in agriculture-producing areas, where students have the chance to learn about the importance of agriculture to the world food supply and to our local economies.
Willardsen’s wife, Cheri, and their family also joined President Obama at the White House Rose Garden for the annual Thanksgiving presentation.
“Tomorrow, in the company of friends and loved ones, we will celebrate a uniquely American holiday. And it’s a chance for us to spend time with the people we care about and to give thanks for the blessings that we enjoy; and to think about just how lucky we are to live in the greatest nation on Earth,” said President Obama.
After his remarks, the president pardoned the National Thanksgiving Turkey and its alternate, “Gobbler.” Both birds were raised on the farm of Craig and Nancy Miller, near Harrisonburg, Va., under Willardsen’s supervision and in partnership with the Virginia Poultry Federation. Willardsen is president of Cargill Inc.’s Wichita, Kan.-based turkey business. Dr. Bob Evans, also of Cargill, handled the turkey during the Rose Garden ceremony.
“Thanksgiving is about welcoming in the holiday season,” said Willardsen. “Being a part of raising the National Thanksgiving Turkey is such an honor and a privilege, as it symbolizes the importance of recognizing our many blessings throughout the year.”
The night before the presentation, “Cobbler” and “Gobbler” stayed in a room at the W Washington, D.C. Hotel. After the pardoning, they were driven to George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate Museum and Gardens. The National Thanksgiving Turkey will be on display for visitors during “Christmas at Mount Vernon,” a special program through Jan. 6.
After the holidays, the National Thanksgiving Turkey and its alternate will live in a custom-made enclosure at Mount Vernon’s nationally recognized livestock facility.
Jaindl’s Turkey Farm in Orefield, Pa., gave President Obama’s family two dressed turkeys that will be donated to the Capital Area Food Bank.