Presidentially Pardoned Turkeys
Move to Virginia Tech

"Tater" and "Tot" Find New Home at Gobbler's Rest


Last year, President Obama, his daughters Sasha and Malia, and National Turkey Federation Chairman Jihad Douglas participated in the pardon of turkeys Honest and Abe. Credit: The White House

The presidential pardon of turkeys in the holiday season has been traced back to Abraham Lincoln, according to Lincoln's son Tad reportedly intervened to save the live turkey that had been brought to the White House for Christmas dinner in 1863.

The president has been presented with a Thanksgiving turkey every year since 1947, but the modern tradition of Thanksgiving turkey pardons began in 1989 with George H. W. Bush's first Thanksgiving as president. (Before then, most presidents just ate the turkey.) The pardoned turkeys throughout the years have gone to Frying Pan Farm Park in Virginia, Disneyland or Disney World, Mount Vernon, and Morven Park in Virginia.

In a ceremony in the White House Rose Garden on the day before Thanksgiving, President Obama, along with two of his nephews, pardoned "Tater" and "Tot" before sending them to Virginia Tech to live out their natural lives.

Before granting clemency to the two turkeys, the president took a moment to recognize "the brave turkeys who weren't so lucky, who didn't get to ride the gravy train to freedom, who met their fate with courage and sacrifice, and proved that they weren't chicken."

This year, the two pardoned turkeys will live out their days at Gobbler's Rest, which was built inside the university's Livestock Judging Pavilion in Blacksburg, Va., where they will be cared for by students and veterinarians.

Virginia Tech was chosen in part because of its history with the turkey industry. Virginia Cooperative Extension Agent Charles Wampler is regarded as the founder of the modern turkey industry, and in 1940, founded the National Turkey Federation.

Gobbler's Rest will be open to the public on Fridays and Saturdays from Nov. 25 to Dec. 17, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., with a future schedule to be announced. In addition to visiting the turkeys, the public is invited to learn about the university's teaching, research and outreach programs in animal and poultry sciences and veterinary medicine.

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November 19, 2017, 7:51 am PST

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