ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — With two other turkeys ticketed for a presidential pardon at the White House, their brother met Minnesota's governor Monday at a state Capitol ceremony featuring much of the same upbeat pageantry ahead of a far gloomier fate for the bird.
Jokingly dubbed "Delicious" by a farmer traveling with the 20-pound gobbler, the unfortunate turkey enjoyed only a brief stay of execution — not a reprieve — during a ceremony laced with gallows humor at Gov. Mark Dayton's Capitol office.
The next stop for the pink and white bird: a trip to the St. Paul Salvation Army and, eventually, dinner for the less-fortunate. Conversely, his two brothers are headed to the White House Wednesday where they'll be officially spared.
"I don't know how long you'd last in my backyard with two German shepherds," Dayton whispered as he stroked the bird's feathered back.
Because the turkey was part of the flock considered candidates for a White House pardon, he got far more TLC than the average dining room-bound bird. Along with his more fortunate siblings, he lived in a separate barn and relaxed to an eclectic music mix including Vivaldi and John Mayer.
The bird and his two White House-bound kin were all raised by turkey farmer John Burkel in Badger, Minn., near the Canadian border. As current chairman of the National Turkey Federation, Burkel was tapped to provide a bird for President Barack Obama's pardon — a yearly custom that dates to President Harry S. Truman in 1947. The second bird is sent along in case the first comes down with performance anxiety.
Besides music and privacy, Burkel conditioned the naturally nervous birds to behave in front cameras and crowds.
"You need to cultivate the ability to not get too distracted," said Steve Olson, executive director of the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association. After Obama's pardon, the star turkeys will head to Walt Disney World for a Thanksgiving Day parade.
Minnesota has about 250 independent turkey farmers, more than any other state, who combined operate 600 turkey farms. The Turkey Growers group said that in 2011, they raised nearly 50 million birds and generated $600 million for farmers, processors and related industries. Among other large processors, Minnesota is home to Willmar-based Jennie-O Turkey Store, which is owned by Hormel Foods and is the second-largest turkey producer in the world.
John Zimmerman, the farmer who dubbed the doomed bird Delicious, is president of the Minnesota Turkey Growers and a second-generation turkey man. His farm produces about 4 million pounds of turkey meat a year. He said his father started raising birds in the early 1950s, at a time when turkey farms were popping up around Minnesota. It largely had to do with easy access to the corn and soybeans that are staples of turkeys' diets.
"He grew up milking cows, and he didn't want to milk cows anymore," Zimmerman said of his father. "He got out of the Navy and said, 'I'm going to do something different.'"
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George Washington (1789)
<em><strong>"Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be -- That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks -- for his kind care and protection of the People of this country previous to their becoming a Nation -- for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his providence, which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war -- for the great degree of tranquillity, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed -- for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted, for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us."</strong></em> (<a href="http://www.pilgrimhall.org/ThanxProc1789.htm" target="_hplink">Oct. 3, 1789</a>)
James Madison (1815)
<em><strong>"No people ought to feel greater obligations to celebrate the goodness of the Great Disposer of Events of the Destiny of Nations than the people of the United States. His kind providence originally conducted them to one of the best portions of the dwelling place allotted for the great family of the human race. ... And to the same Divine Author of Every Good and Perfect Gift we are indebted for all those privileges and advantages, religious as well as civil, which are so richly enjoyed in this favored land."</strong></em> (<a href="http://www.pilgrimhall.org/ThanxProc1789.htm" target="_hplink">March 4, 1815</a>)
Abraham Lincoln (1863)
<strong><em>"The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies.To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added which are of so extraordinary a nature that they can not fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God. ... No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy."</em></strong> (<a href="http://www.pilgrimhall.org/ThanxProc1862.htm" target="_hplink">Oct. 3, 1863</a>)
Ulysses S. Grant (1869)
<em><strong>"It becomes a people thus favored to make acknowledgment to the Supreme Author from whom such blessings flow of their gratitude and their dependence, to render praise and thanksgiving for the same, and devoutly to implore a continuance of God's mercies."</strong></em> (<a href="http://www.pilgrimhall.org/ThanxProc1862.htm" target="_hplink">Oct. 5, 1869</a>)
Theodore Roosevelt (1902)
<em><strong>"[D]ecade by decade we have struggled onward and upward; we now abundantly enjoy material well-being, and under the favor of the Most High we are striving earnestly to achieve moral and spiritual uplifting. The year that has just closed has been one of peace and of overflowing plenty. Rarely has any people enjoyed greater prosperity than we are now enjoying. For this we render heartfelt thanks to the giver of Good; and we will seek to praise Him, not by words only, but by deeds, by the way in which we do our duty to ourselves and to our fellow-men."</strong></em> (<a href="http://www.pilgrimhall.org/ThanxProc1900.htm" target="_hplink">Oct. 29, 1902</a>)
Woodrow Wilson (1917)
<em><strong>"A new light shines about us. The great duties of a new day awaken a new and greater national spirit in us. We shall never again be divided or wonder what stuff we are made of. And while we render thanks for these things, let us pray Almighty God that in all humbleness of spirit we may look always to Him for guidance; that we may be kept constant in the spirit and purpose of service; that by His grace our minds may be directed and our hands strengthened; and that in His good time liberty and security and peace and the comradeship of a common justice may be vouchsafed all the nations of the earth."</strong></em> (<a href="http://www.pilgrimhall.org/ThanxProc1910.htm" target="_hplink">Nov. 7, 1917</a>)
Herbert Hoover (1929)
<em><strong>"At this season of the year, when the harvest had been gathered in, the thoughts of our forefathers turned toward God with thanksgiving for the blessings of plenty and provision against the needs of winter. They came by custom to look to the Chief Magistrate to set apart a day of prayer and praise whereon their thanks as a united people might be given with one voice in unison. God has greatly blessed us as a nation in the year now drawing to a close. The earth has yielded an abundant harvest in most parts of our country. The fruits of industry have been of unexampled quantity and value. Both capital and labor have enjoyed an exceptional prosperity."</strong></em> (<a href="http://www.pilgrimhall.org/ThanxProc1920.htm" target="_hplink">Nov. 5, 1929</a>)
Franklin D. Roosevelt (1941)
<em><strong>"We are grateful to the Father of us all for the innumerable daily manifestations of His beneficent mercy in affairs both public and private, for the bounties of the harvest, for opportunities to labor and to serve, and for the continuation of those homely joys and satisfactions which enrich our lives. Let us ask the Divine Blessing on our decision and determination to protect our way of life against the forces of evil and slavery which seek in these days to encompass us. On the day appointed for this purpose, let us reflect at our homes or places of worship on the goodness of God and, in giving thanks, let us ray for a speedy end to strife and the establishment on earth of freedom, brotherhood, and justice for enduring time."</strong></em> (<a href="http://www.pilgrimhall.org/ThanxProc1940.htm" target="_hplink">Nov. 8, 1941</a>)
Harry S. Truman (1945)
<em><strong>"In this year of our victory, absolute and final, over German fascism and Japanese militarism; in this time of peace so long awaited, which we are determined with all the United Nations to make permanent; on this day of our abundance, strength, and achievement; let us give thanks to Almighty Providence for these exceeding blessings."</strong></em> (<a href="http://www.pilgrimhall.org/ThanxProc1940.htm" target="_hplink">Nov. 12, 1945</a>)
Dwight D. Eisenhower (1959)
<em><strong>"As a token of our gratitude for God's gracious gift of abundance, let us share generously with those less fortunate than we at home and abroad. Let us at this season of thanksgiving perform deeds of thanksgiving; and, throughout the year, let us fulfill those obligations of citizenship and humanity which spring from grateful hearts."</strong></em> (<a href="http://www.pilgrimhall.org/ThanxProc1950.htm" target="_hplink">Nov. 5, 1959</a>)
John F. Kennedy (1961)
<em><strong>"We are grateful for the blessings of faith and health and strength and for the imperishable spiritual gifts of love and hope. We give thanks, too, for our freedom as a nation; for the strength of our arms and the faith of our friends; for the beliefs and confidence we share; for our determination to stand firmly for what we believe to be right and to resist mightily what we believe to be base; and for the heritage of liberty bequeathed by our ancestors which we are privileged to preserve for our children and our children's children."</strong></em> (<a href="http://www.pilgrimhall.org/ThanxProc1960.htm" target="_hplink">Oct. 27, 1961</a>)
Lyndon B. Johnson (1964)
<em><strong>"As the harvest season draws to a close and our storehouses bulge with the bounty of the land, it is our desire to observe, in the custom and tradition of our forebears, a special day dedicated to giving thanks to God - a day on which to lay aside our daily tasks and cares and pay joyous homage to Him. We are impelled to raise our voices in His praise and to proclaim our heartfelt gratitude for another year in which we have been blessed with a bountiful harvest, with intellectual, humanitarian, economic, scientific, and technical advances and achievements, and with other gains too numerous to mention."</strong></em> (<a href="http://www.pilgrimhall.org/ThanxProc1960.htm" target="_hplink">Nov 13, 1964</a>)
Richard Nixon (1972)
<em><strong>"From Moses at the Red Sea to Jesus preparing to feed the multitudes, the Scriptures summon us to words and deeds of gratitude, even before divine blessings are fully perceived. From Washington kneeling at Valley Forge to the prayer of an astronaut circling the moon, our own history repeats that summons and proves its practicality. ... At this thanksgiving time our country can look back with special gratitude across the events of a year which has brought more progress toward lasting peace than any other year for a generation past; and we can look forward with trust in Divine Providence toward the opportunities which peace will bring. Truly our cup runs over with the bounty of God -- our lives, our liberties, and our loved ones; our worldly goods and our spiritual heritage; the beauty of our land, the breadth of our horizons, and the promise of peace that crowns it all. For all of this, let us now humbly give thanks."</strong></em> (<a href="http://www.pilgrimhall.org/ThanxProc1970.htm" target="_hplink">Nov. 17, 1972</a>)
Gerald Ford (1974)
<em><strong>"This year, in the midst of plenty, we still face serious problems and massive challenges. In giving thanks for the many things we hold dear, let us also pray for the courage, resourcefulness and sense of purpose we will need to continue America's saga of progress, and to be worthy heirs of the Pilgrim spirit."</strong></em> (<a href="http://www.pilgrimhall.org/ThanxProc1970.htm" target="_hplink">Nov. 11, 1974</a>)
Jimmy Carter (1979)
<em><strong>"Like those who came before us, we come to give thanks for our singular deliverances and blessings, in a time of both danger and great promise. May we be thankful in proportion to that which we have received, trusting not in our wealth and comforts, but in the strength of our purpose, that all nations might be similarly blessed with liberty and abundance and live in peace."</strong></em> (<a href="http://www.pilgrimhall.org/ThanxProc1970.htm" target="_hplink">Sept. 28, 1979</a>)
Ronald Raegan (1987)
<em><strong>"The blessings that are ours must be understood as the gift of a loving God Whose greatest gift is healing. Let us join then, with the psalmist of old: <blockquote>O give thanks to the Lord, call on His name, Make known His deeds among the peoples! Sing to Him, sing praises to Him, Tell of all His wonderful works! Glory in His holy name; Let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice!</blockquote></strong></em> (<a href="http://www.pilgrimhall.org/ThanxProc1980.htm" target="_hplink">July 28, 1987</a>)
George H.W. Bush (1990)
<em>"This Thanksgiving, as we enjoy the company of family and friends, let us gratefully turn our hearts to God, the loving Source of all Life and Liberty. Let us seek His forgiveness for our shortcomings and transgressions and renew our determination to remain a people worthy of His continued favor and protection. Acknowledging our dependence on the Almighty, obeying His Commandments, and reaching out to help those who do not share fully in this Nation's bounty is the most heartfelt and meaningful answer we can give to the timeless appeal of the Psalmist: 'O give thanks to the Lord for He is good: for his steadfast love endures forever.'"</em> <a href="http://www.pilgrimhallmuseum.org/" target="_blank">(Nov. 14, 1990)</a>
Bill Clinton (1996)
<em><strong>"Americans today still cherish the fresh air of freedom, in which we can raise our families and worship God as we choose without fear of persecution. We still rejoice in this great land and in the civil and religious liberty it offers to all. And we still--and always--raise our voices in prayer to God, thanking Him in humility for the countless blessings He has bestowed on our Nation and our people. Let us now, this Thanksgiving Day, reawaken ourselves and our neighbors and our communities to the genius of our founders in daring to build the world's first constitutional democracy on the foundation of trust and thanks to God. Out of our right and proper rejoicing on Thanksgiving Day, let us give our own thanks to God and reaffirm our love of family, neighbor, and community. Each of us can be an instrument of blessing to those we touch this Thanksgiving Day -- and every day of the year."</strong></em> (<a href="http://www.pilgrimhall.org/ThanxProc1990.htm" target="_hplink">Nov. 11, 1996</a>)
George W. Bush (2001)
<em><strong>"In thankfulness and humility, we acknowledge, especially now, our dependence on One greater than ourselves. On this day of Thanksgiving, let our thanksgiving be revealed in the compassionate support we render to our fellow citizens who are grieving unimaginable loss; and let us reach out with care to those in need of food, shelter, and words of hope. May Almighty God, who is our refuge and our strength in this time of trouble, watch over our homeland, protect us, and grant us patience, resolve, and wisdom in all that is to come."</strong></em> (<a href="http://www.pilgrimhall.org/ThanxProc2000.htm" target="_hplink">Nov. 16, 2001</a>)
Barack Obama (2011)
<em><strong>"As we gather in our communities and in our homes, around the table or near the hearth, we give thanks to each other and to God for the many kindnesses and comforts that grace our lives. Let us pause to recount the simple gifts that sustain us, and resolve to pay them forward in the year to come."</strong></em> (<a href="http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/11/16/presidential-proclamation-thanksgiving-day-2011" target="_hplink">Nov. 16, 2011</a>)