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Trump’s presidential Thanksgiving turkey pardon to feature Iowa birds

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The tradition of a turkey being pardoned by a U.S. president for Thanksgiving has evolved over the decades.

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Birds will live out their days at Iowa State University

DES MOINES — President Donald Trump will pardon an Iowa bird next week at the White House. 

Turkey producers Ron and Susie Kardel of Walcott raised this year’s “presidential flock,” including the two turkeys chosen to travel to Washington, D.C. A White House official told CNN that the ceremony is set for Tuesday.

One of the birds will be named the official Thanksgiving Turkey and the other will serve as an alternate, according to an Iowa State University news release. Both will then live out their days at ISU and be available for public viewing starting at 10 a.m. on Dec. 5.

Susie and Ron Kardel of Walcott, Iowa raised two turkeys that will visit the White House for the National Thanksgiving Turkey Presentation. The turkeys will then go on to live at Iowa State University in Ames. (Photo: Special to the Ames Tribune)

“We are excited to welcome these national Thanksgiving icons onto our animal science farms,” Dan Thomson, professor and chair of ISU’s Department of Animal Science, said in the release. “(ISU) is invested in supporting the poultry and turkey industries through teaching and research as evidenced in our new state-of-the-art turkey production facility to be built in the spring of 2021.”

Last year, North Carolina turkeys Bread and Butter were hosted at a Washington, D.C. hotel before participating in the ceremony, where Butter was officially designated as that year’s National Thanksgiving Turkey.

Turkeys have been sent to U.S. presidents as gifts from as early as the 1870s. The official National Thanksgiving Turkey Presentation started in 1947.

The turkey “pardoning” tradition seen today formally began in 1989, under former President George H.W. Bush — and presidents have spared the lives of Thanksgiving birds since.

“But let me assure you, and this fine tom turkey, that he will not end up on anyone’s dinner table,” said Bush in 1989, addressing nearby animal rights activists and the year’s presidential turkey. “Not this guy — he’s granted a Presidential pardon as of right now.”

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Contributing: Wyatte Grantham-Philips, USA TODAY.

Read or Share this story: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2020/11/19/donald-trump-presidential-thanksgiving-turkey-pardon-feature-iowa-birds/3775995001/

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