Feathers might be flying at Wednesday's Rose Garden ceremony when President Obama pardons the National Thanksgiving Turkey if the behavior of one gobbler from the specially trained Presidential Flock is any indication. On Friday, "Ted," a feisty tom raised by Willmar Poultry Company in Minnesota, made a break for it during a pardon ceremony with Governor Mark Dayton in the State Capitol. Sen. Amy Klobuchar was on hand as Ted fled his cage and flapped his way into the crowd. (Above: Klobuchar, center laughs as the turkey heads for the hills; Dayton is at right)
Like all wannabe National Turkeys, the 35 members of Willmar's Presidential Flock have been trained for weeks to be able to appear in public, with plenty of human interaction and exposure to flash cameras and noise. Ostensibly the official National Turkey--which is not Ted, but a different bird that will be selected by and presented to President Obama by Richard Huisinga, co-owner of Willmar and chair of the National Turkey Federation--is the best behaved of the lot.
On Friday, after a few moments of mirth, the 45-pound Ted was retrieved and re-penned by one of the FFA (Future Farmers of America) students who has helped raise him, reported the StarTribune. The turkeys were born on July 7, and Ted's youthful hijinks caused a lot of laughter from the crowd--and from Klobuchar and the Governor.
After his escape plan was foiled, Ted sat on a table as the Governor and Klobuchar petted him for the cameras. He received his reprieve in due course, though there was one more moment of wing-flapping on the table.
While Gov. Dayton said during the ceremony that he was pardoning Ted so the gobbler can be pardoned by President Obama, it doesn't quite work that way. (Above: Klobuchar reacts as Ted spreads his wings while on the pardon table)
The actual National Turkey--and an alternate--are currently being driven to Washington, DC, to share the spotlight with President Obama. They'll be staying at a luxury hotel during their visit.
The gobblers are hybrid broad-breasted white turkeys, and have been cared for by four teens participating in the FFA program at Willmar High School. They are just two of the 45 million turkeys produced by Willmar Poultry each year. Read more here about the Presidential Flock and their journey to the White House.
Minnesota's The Uptake posted a video of the escape attempt. Both StarTribune and The Uptake repeated the Governor's assertion that Ted is the tom being pardoned at the White House, but to repeat, it's a different turkey who will be pardoned by President Obama.
*Photos by Glen Stubbe for the StarTribune; Video from The Uptake