Trump pardons National Thanksgiving Turkey 'Peas'

By Daniel Uria and Danielle Haynes
Trump pardons Peas, the National Thanksgiving Turkey
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Nov. 20 (UPI) -- President Donald Trump on Tuesday pardoned Peas the turkey for Thanksgiving in a White House tradition that dates back to the 1800s.

Even though Peas won the online voting contest to determine the pardoned turkey, his companion, Carrots, also will be spared the Thanksgiving table. Both will retire at Gobblers Rest at Virginia Tech.


They're the first national turkeys to come from a farm in South Dakota.

"At this time of the year we reflect on all of the many blessings in our lives," the president said. "Thanksgiving is a time of great American traditions."

The president, first lady Melania Trump, daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner attended the turkey pardoning in the White House Rose Garden. Ivanka's three children -- Arabella, Theodore and Joseph -- also were in attendance.


The president used the ceremony as an opportunity to land a few jokes about the midterm elections and Democrats in Congress.

"This was a fair election," he said of the online poll to select a turkey. "Unfortunately, Carrots refused to concede and demanded a recount and we're still fighting with Carrots."

This year's turkeys

The National Turkey Federation shared profiles of the two tom turkeys, both weighing about 42 pounds, noting their favorite music, snacks and pastimes as well as their gobble style and goals.

The turkeys appeared at a press conference Monday, where Jeff Sveen, chairman of the National Turkey Federation and Chairman of the Board of Dakota Provision, said they were both born about June 28 and were selected from a group of about 50 special turkeys for their physical appearance, gait and calm demeanor.

During the selection process, the turkeys lived in an air-conditioned "mansion for birds" in the "Presidential Suite" at the Riverside Colony near Huron.

"They get a lot of special treatment, but on some things they're just regular birds," Sveen told the Sioux Falls Argus Leader.

While in the suite, the turkeys drank reverse osmosis bottled water, ate a special feed of corn, soybean meal and vitamins, and were raised antibiotic free.


The turkeys will stay at the Waldner Intercontinental Hotel a block away from the White House where they will sleep in an adjoining room with Riverside Colony turkey manager Ruben Waldner.

Waldner is tasked with guarding the turkeys throughout their time in Washington, D.C., including checking on them three or four times a night.

"If the president's got the [Secret Service] on him all the time, why can't my turkeys have one?" Waldner asked.

Pardons throughout history

It is believed President Abraham Lincoln originated the tradition when he pardoned a turkey in 1863, according to the White House Historical Association.

Rhode Island poultry dealer Horace Vose became known for offering turkeys as gifts to the White House throughout the 1880s. During those years, the first families didn't always eat them, but the public pardoning wasn't yet an established tradition.

Vose died in 1913, opening the way for other vendors to provide turkeys to the White House.

President Harry S. Truman has been credited for bringing about the tradition as it is today. He was the first president to receive a turkey from the Poultry and Egg National Board and the National Turkey Federation in 1947.


First lady Patricia Nixon accepted turkeys on behalf of President Richard Nixon during the latter years of his presidency, and sent one to the Oxon Hill Children's Farm in 1973. First lady Rosalynn Carter also sent a turkey to a mini zoo at Evans Farm Inn in 1978. Sending the national turkey to a farm became standard practice under President Ronald Reagan.

President George W. Bush became the first to pardon a female turkey in 2006, when he granted mercy to "Katie," a 30-pound bird raised on a farm in Clinton, N.C. Last year, Trump granted his first turkey pardon to "Drumstick," who was raised in Douglas County, Minn. The president was joined by first lady Melania Trump and son Barron for the ceremony.

"Drumstick" and the alternate "Wishbone" were both sent to "Gobbler's Rest" after the ceremony.

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