Bonus content: Orion Magazine is running a feature essay on Turkey Pardons. Here’s a preview:
The tradition of the presidential turkey pardon has continued to evolve in surprising ways. In the early years the exonerated gobblers were sent to Kidwell Farm, a petting zoo in northern Virginia where, as turkey rock stars, they lived a life featuring excessive drug use and media attention but only the brief fame their overbred and steroid-addled condition would allow. Since 2005, however, the ritual has become more surreal: the pardoned bird is now immediately flown to Disneyland or Disney World, where it serves as grand marshal of the Thanksgiving Day parade at the creepily self-proclaimed “Happiest Place on Earth.”
…President Obama apparently recognized the surreal quality of the ceremony when he remarked, “There are certain days that remind me of why I ran for this office. And then there are moments like this, where I pardon a turkey and send it to Disneyland.” Of course now that the pardoned bird is a national celebrity, it has become necessary to pardon an alternate bird each year in case the National Turkey is unable to fulfill its duties—as occurred in 2008, when “Pecan” fell suddenly ill and required its understudy, “Pumpkin,” to receive the honors.