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Agriculture News As It Happens


Public chooses ‘Popcorn’ for presidential pardon

President Barack Obama today pardoned a corn-eating turkey named Popcorn and its alternate, a soybean meal-preferring turkey named Caramel in a Thanksgiving ceremony that stretches back to the presidency of Harry Truman in 1947.

“The office of the presidency — the most powerful position in the world — brings with it many awesome and solemn responsibilities. This is not one of them,” Obama said.

“But the White House turkey pardon is a great tradition. And I know Malia loves it — as does Sasha.”

The president’s daughters accompanied him to the ceremony held in the North Portico of the White House due to rain.

National Turkey Federation Chairman John Burkel of Badger, Minn., his wife, Joni, and their five children who raised and selected the turkeys, presented them to Obama. Students from Badger High School, who joined the Burkel family on their journey to Washington, D.C., were also in attendance.

The names of the turkeys were chosen from submissions from elementary schools in Roseau County, Minn., where the turkeys were raised in a special house on the Burkel farm. (For details, see Obama Foodorama, linked below.)

The turkeys were petted and provided with music so they would stay quiet for the White House ceremony.

Obama, noting that “80 turkeys on John’s farm competed for the chance to make it to the White House and stay off the Thanksgiving table, referenced a popular book and movie series where teenage “tributes” are chosen to compete in an annual deadly contest.

“It was, quite literally, the ‘Hunger Games.’ And then after weeks of vocal practice and prepping for the cameras, the two tributes, Caramel and Popcorn went head-to-head together for America’s vote as top gobbler. “

For the second year, the public chose the winner by casting votes for either “Team Caramel” or “Team Popcorn” on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Obama joked that the choice of Popcorn proved “that even a turkey with a funny name can find a place in politics. As for Caramel, he’s sticking around, and he’s already busy raising money for his next campaign.”

After the pardoning, the turkeys were driven to George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens, the White House said in a background statement, where they will be on display during the “Christmas at Mount Vernon” program through January 6.

The turkeys will then travel to their permanent home at Morven Park’s Turkey Hill, an historic turkey farm located at the home of former Virginia Gov. Westmoreland Davis in Leesburg, Va.

In recent years the pardoned turkeys remained at Mount Vernon, but they died so quickly that a decision was made to send them to Morven Park.

Obama also noted that this is the time of year “to give thanks to our friends and our family, for citizens who show compassion to those in need, and for neighbors who help strangers they’ve never met.”

He announced that he and his family would give two dressed turkeys to a Washington, D.C., food bank. The turkeys were donated by Jaindl’s Turkey Farm of Orefield, Pa.