Turkey Federation shows off Wishbone and Drumstick
The National Turkey Federation introduced two turkeys from Minnesota that were presented to President Donald Trump for pardoning on Nov. 21.
In the ballroom of the Willard InterContinental hotel, National Turkey Federation Chairman Carl Wittenburg said he and his family raised the two large white birds at their home in Alexandria, Minn., with the help of five members of the local Douglas County 4-H chapter.
Wittenburg, who raises turkeys at Wyndmere, N.D., said the White House chose the names Wishbone and Drumstick for this year’s turkeys.
The White House posted video of the birds’ arrival at the Willard on its Twitter account, which shows the birds checking in, being escorted to their room on a luggage cart, and perhaps watching a football game on TV.
There also is a Twitter poll asking people to vote on which bird should be the official National Thanksgiving Turkey and which should be the alternate.
House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., was present at the ceremony and noted he was a “4-H kid.”
Peterson said when he joined 4-H he was “scared to speak in public … a typical farm kid,” and he learned a lot in the organization. Peterson also noted his congressional district is the No. 1 turkey producer in the country, as well as the No. 1 sugar beet producer.
Christina Kuismi, one of the 4-H Science of Ag team that raised the turkeys, said the experience taught her the turkeys love shows and are attracted to shiny things like rings. Wittenburg noted that there were 80 birds in the presidential flock, and that the two birds finally chosen were picked for their character, showmanship and “strutting their stuff.”
The 4-H students also are participating in Quilts of Valor, a program to make quilts to be presented to service members and veterans who have been touched by war. They presented a quilt with a turkey pattern to Peterson for his assistance to service members and veterans.
The birds were raised with conventional turkey production methods in a barn with constant access to water and a diet of corn, soybeans, amino acids and vitamins, but they were acclimated to television lights and crowd noises, Wittenburg said.
They made the 18-hour journey from Minnesota to Washington in a minivan, Wittenburg said, and the Federal Highway Administration named the 1,200-mile route that included interstate highways 39, 69, 70, 76, 80, 90 and 94 the “National Turkeypike” for 2017.
After staying at a room at the Willard under the supervision of a driver known as the “turkey whisperer” and being taken to the White House, the turkeys will live out their days at “Gobbler’s Rest” on the campus of Virginia Tech.
Shannon Andrea, a media representative of Virginia Tech, said Wishbone and Drumstick will join Tater and Tot, who were pardoned last year by President Barack Obama, in an enclosure outside the Poultry Science Department Livestock Judging Pavilion on the Blacksburg, Va., campus.
HokieBird, Virginia Tech’s turkey-like mascot, also made the trip to Washington to welcome the Minnesota birds.
Turkeys grown for meat often do not have long lives. Wittenburg said Wishbone and Drumstick are 20 weeks old, and turkeys normally live three years. ❖