WASHINGTON, Nov. 24 (UPI) -- U.S. President Obama pardoned turkeys Apple and Cider Wednesday, giving the pair a chance to live large instead of being a main course on a Thanksgiving table.

"For the record, It feels pretty good to stop at least one shellacking this November," Obama said Wednesday, referring to the drubbing Democrats received in the Nov 2 midterm elections.

Saying the presidential pardon was an "awesome responsibility," Obama said Apple and his stand-in Cider scratched their way to the Rose Garden ceremony, beating out about 20,000 feathered competitors.

He called the competition, which included the birds "strutting their stuff" to an eclectic music mix, "a turkey version of 'Dancing with the Stars.'"

"Except the stakes for the contestants are much higher," Obama chuckled. "Only one pair would survive and win the big prize -- life."

After "living it up on corn" at a Washington-area W Hotel, Obama said, Apple and Cider will spend the rest of their natural lives at Mount Vernon, Va.

"You are hereby pardoned from the Thanksgiving dinner table," Obama said "May you have a wonderful and joyful life in Mount Vernon."

Once at George Washington's Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens, the pair of 45-pound, 21-week-old birds will be on display during "Christmas at Mount Vernon" through Jan. 6, 2011, then live in a "custom-made enclosure" at Mount Vernon's livestock facility, the White House said.

On a serious note, Obama noted the Thanksgiving holiday was a time to be "thankful for what we have ... and be generous for those who have less."

Obama said he and his family were delivering two turkeys to Martha's Table, a Washington-area organization "that does extraordinary work helping folks who are struggling."

After wishing everyone a happy and safe Thanksgiving, Obama said he was grateful to America's military serving "bravely and selflessly" throughout the world.

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Guests photograph Apple, the National Thanksgiving Turkey, who was pardoned by U.S. President Barack Obama on Thanksgiving eve in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington on November 24, 2010. UPI/Roger L. Wollenberg
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