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Every year, the president of the United States takes a break from governing on Thanksgiving Day to take part in a special ceremony with the National Turkey Federation.
During the ceremony, the NTF chairman, presents the president and first lady with the National Thanksgiving Turkey. An alternate National Thanksgiving Turkey also makes the trek. But in recent years, those turkeys never made it to the dinner table.
Ever since President George H.W. Bush announced that he would “pardon” the turkey in 1989, presidential turkey pardons have become the custom. But have you ever wondered what happens to the turkey once it is pardoned?
John Reicks is this year’s NTF Chairman, and he selected Iowa turkey farmers Chris and Nicole Domino to raise the 2016 National Thanksgiving Turkey. Chris is a fourth-generation Iowa farmer.
If you follow Presidential Turkey on Twitter, you will learn quite a bit about the Dominos and their turkey operation. This year’s presidential turkey flock was hatched in July, so by the time Thanksgiving comes around, the National Thanksgiving Turkey and its alternate will be around 18 weeks old.
In an effort to help prepare the turkeys for their big day at the White House, the Dominos have been working with their turkeys, having them practice standing on a podium. They have also had the turkeys listen to music and other “city noises” to prepare them for the trip.
Once President Barack Obama issues his final turkey pardon, the turkeys won’t be going back to the Domino farm. Instead, they will head off to college.
The NTF has partnered with Virginia Tech’s Department of Animal and Poultry Sciences to be the home of the 2016 turkeys. According to a press release from Virginia Tech, the birds will be housed in Gobbler’s Rest, a newly built enclosure located inside the university’s livestock judging pavilion.
The public will be able to visit the turkeys and learn about the university’s teaching, research and outreach programs in animal and poultry sciences, as well as veterinary medicine. A public viewing has been scheduled for 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., November 25-26.