We’d like to introduce you to a very special flock of turkeys who are currently going through some specific training in far northwestern Minnesota!
These birds – all males, or “tom” turkeys – are among the few, the proud who may be invited to travel to Washington DC in November for a pardon from President Obama. The birds are being raised by John and Joni Burkel and their five kids near Badger, Minnesota – which is just a few miles from the Canadian border!
Check out the turkeys’ special home – it’s a bit like a mini version of the White House, don’t you think?
In the coming weeks, you will be able to read more about the Burkel family and hear from some of their kids, who are taking a very hands-on role in raising these turkeys. You see, in order to ensure the eventual National Thanksgiving Turkey and his alternate can behave themselves at the White House, all these birds must be acclimated to lots of noise, lights, music and human contact – definitely a fun job for the kids!
The history behind this Thanksgiving tradition in Washington DC dates back to President Truman in 1947, when an official ceremony was held to present the president with a turkey. Each year since then the National Turkey Federation has been invited to participate in this ceremony by raising and presenting the National Thanksgiving Turkey to the president. Early Presidential turkeys were destined for a dinner plate until President George H.W. Bush began the official tradition of pardoning the turkey in 1989.
With any luck, the Minnesota Turkey this year will serve his duty at the White House and then be brought (along with his lucky alternate!) to Mount Vernon, the home of George Washington, to enjoy the holiday season. After that, the birds will move to Morven Park in Leesburg, VA to live out the rest of their lives.
Here are some addititional links to check out about the National Thanksgiving Turkey project:
Info for Parents (food safety, recipes, etc.)
Minnesota Turkey’s Facebook Page (like us for fun updates!)
Follow us on Twitter – @MinnesotaTurkey
Be sure to check back often for updates and more photos and videos from the Burkel family as they continue raise and groom this very special Presidential turkey flock. In the meantime, enjoy this video introduction to the flock!