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In an annual event that has come to signify the official kickoff to the holiday season, a pair of tom turkeys hatched and raised in Rockingham County, Va., are heading to the nation’s capitol as the 2012 National Thanksgiving Turkeys that will be pardoned by President Obama in a November 21 White House ceremony.
Each year, the White House works closely with the National Turkey Federation (NTF) to facilitate the event, with the current year’s NTF chairman determining where the turkeys come from.
“Having been part of Virginia turkey production for many years, I know the passion, dedication and hard work people in Virginia’s poultry industry bring to the raising of safe, nutritious, affordable and high quality turkey for American’s to enjoy year round,” said NTF’s 2012 chairman is Steve Willardsen, who is also president of Cargill, Inc.’s turkey business based in Wichita, Kan.
“This year, Cargill has collaborated with the Virginia Poultry Federation, NTF and one of the company’s family farmers to raise turkeys for presentation to the White House,” explained Willardsen, who added how gratifying it’s been “to see the excitement of so many people, especially school children, at state and county fairs and in classrooms, as they have a chance to learn about the tradition of turkeys being presented to the White House,” which dates back to 1947 when Harry Truman was president.
“The send-off from Virginia, should be fun, and will involve local dignitaries, a high school band and citizens from the Harrisonburg area,” Willardsen noted.
Two tom turkeys weighing approximately 40 pounds each will be given a celebratory send-off to Washington, D.C., from West Rockingham Ruritan Park on Monday, Nov. 19, at 1:30 p.m. Police will escort the National Thanksgiving Turkey motorcade, which will proceed to Washington, where the turkeys will spend two nights at the W Hotel, prior to being pardoned at the White House the day before Thanksgiving. The pardoned turkeys, whose names will be selected by the White House, will then reside at the George and Martha Washington estate in Mount Vernon, Va.
“As Americans, we have a lot to be thankful for, including abundant good food, and this is an opportunity to acknowledge the start of the holiday season in an enjoyable and patriotic way that involves America’s First Family,” said Joel Brandenberger, NTF president. “The American turkey industry is proud to be part of this very special tradition.”