South Dakota turkeys head to White House seeking pardons
HURON, S.D. (AP) — A pair of South Dakota turkeys will make their way to the nation's capital in the hopes of receiving presidential pardons and avoiding ending up as Thanksgiving dinner at the White House.
Tourism officials in the birds' hometown of Huron paraded the turkeys around the city on Wednesday as part of a formal send-off, the Daily Republic reported. Although the turkeys have been presented to presidents for about 70 years and have been receiving pardons since 1989, this is the first year South Dakota was chosen to present a gobbler.
The 40-pound birds were chosen from a flock of 50 plump candidates that were raised on a farm north of Huron, which is about 90 miles (145 kilometers) northwest of Sioux Falls. Turkey farmer Ruben Waldner, who requested the privilege of raising the birds, also assisted in picking the pair to present to the president.
"It took a little (time), because there were a lot of nice birds this year," Waldner said. "I look at how they are feathered, their personality, how they look and how they act. That was the main criteria in choosing these fellows."
On Saturday, Waldner will help escort the turkeys in an SUV on the 1,400-mile drive to the nation's capital. The birds are scheduled to arrive Sunday at a five-star hotel, the Willard InterContinental Hotel, where they'll be staying until the pardoning ceremony.
The turkeys, temporarily named Jeff and Ruben, will be "interviewed" at a press day on Monday. White House representatives will also select and announce the birds' official names, which will be chosen from a list of more than 600 suggestions from South Dakota residents.
"People had a good time with thinking about names and in less than a week, we received all these suggestions from the public, like Rushmore or Dakota," said Katlyn Richter, a South Dakota Department of Tourism spokeswoman.
President Donald Trump will likely pardon the turkeys during a Rose Garden ceremony Tuesday. From there, the birds will be brought to Gobbler's Rest, an agricultural outreach and educational facility at Virginia Tech University in Blacksburg, Virginia, where they can live out the rest of their years.