As President Joe Biden marks his 81st birthday, the White House is buzzing with a beloved tradition—the annual Thanksgiving turkey pardon. Liberty and Bell, the fortunate fowls, arrived at the White House on Monday, ready to be spared from the holiday dinner table in a heartwarming ceremony.
The event, shifted to the South Lawn this year, signifies the unofficial start of the holiday season in Washington. Coinciding with President Biden’s birthday, the festivities include the delivery of the official White House Christmas tree by the First Lady, Jill Biden, adding extra joy to the occasion.
Birthday Celebrations and Feathered Festivities:
President Biden, the oldest leader in U.S. history, embraced his 81st birthday, coinciding with the turkey pardon ceremony. The festivities unfolded at the South Lawn, where Liberty and Bell took center stage for their chance at a second lease on life.
Steve Lykken, chairman of the National Turkey Federation, expressed excitement about the event, stating, “We think that’s a great way to kick off the holiday season and really, really a fun honor.” The ceremony was moved from the Rose Garden to the South Lawn, promising a busy opening day for the holiday season in Washington.
Liberty and Bell’s Grand Arrival:
The turkey duo, weighing approximately 42 pounds each and hailing from Willmar, Minnesota, enjoyed a luxurious stay at the Willard Intercontinental. Raised with care, Liberty and Bell strutted around in a newly renovated Crystal Room, greeted by enthusiastic onlookers.
Lykken assured that the turkeys were well-prepared for the grand event, having listened to music to acclimate to the expected crowds. The birds, fondly called “Swifties,” displayed their readiness for prime time, even enjoying tunes from Taylor Swift and Prince.
A Time-Honored Tradition:
The turkey pardon tradition dates back to 1947, initiated by the National Turkey Federation. What began as a presentation for the first family’s holiday consumption evolved into a lighthearted ceremony by the late 1980s. The birds are granted a presidential pardon, sparing them from ending up on Thanksgiving tables.
After the ceremony, Liberty and Bell will be returned to Minnesota, cared for by the University of Minnesota. President Biden, continuing a family tradition, will spend Thanksgiving on Nantucket, enjoying the company of family.
Celebrating Goodness Amid Global Challenges:
Markus Platzer, the general manager of the Willard, emphasized the hotel’s joy in introducing the turkeys, calling them “very special guests.” In a world facing various challenges, the annual turkey pardon brings smiles, if only for a few minutes, offering a delightful break from the complexities of the global landscape.