A Hamilton County family is preparing to travel to Washington, D.C. to accompany the turkey they’ve raised that’ll be pardoned by President George Bush.
Paul Hill’s Ellsworth turkey operation was chosen for the honor by virtue of his role as Chairman of the National Turkey Federation.
Hill says they have two tom turkeys ready to make the trip. Hill says they will be about 44 to 45 pounds when they make it to the White House. He says they selected the two finalists from some 13 turkeys that were picked when they were nine weeks old. The turkeys will be about 20 weeks old by the time they reach Washington.
These turkeys have had weeks of training to be ready for their national debut. Hill says they play music for the turkeys and work with them every day so the turkeys are trained and used to having people come up and pet them on a table. "so they have to be very, very tame, and a turkey by nature is not a very tame animal," Hill says. Hill says this is a family operation and 24 members of the group will makes the trip.
"It’s very exciting, very exciting for everybody, it’s kind of a once-in-a-lifetime experience," Hill says. He says the most exciting thing for him is that his grandsons helped his son raise the turkeys that’ll go to the White House.
The turkeys will take up residence in the Willard Hotel while in Washington in an exclusive suite. Hill’s farm raises about 700,000 turkeys each year — with most of them end up as sandwich meat for the Subway chain. But this turkey won’t end up on a bun — or a Thanksgiving table.
"The president will pardon him, and then after that, he’ll probably pardon a bunch of other turkeys," Hill says. After the pardon, the turkey will be taken to the Dulles Airport in Washington and flown on a plane dubbed "Turkey One" for a trip to California and Disneyland. The turkeys, and the Hills, will be in the Disneyland Thanksgiving Day parade. Hill says visitors to the amusement park will get a chance to visit the Iowa natives in the Pioneer Village.
Hill says Disney will put the turkeys on a restricted diet to pull their weight down, and they can be expected to live three or four years. Hill says they’ve had all kinds of media visit their farm to see the turkeys, including C.B.S. TV which will feature them on their Sunday morning program on November 30th.
This is the sixth time an Iowan, serving as chairman of the National Turkey Federation, has presented the National Thanksgiving Turkey at the White House. The turkeys will leave for Washington, D.C. Monday via a van for the ceremony on Wednesday.