Governor Terry Branstad upheld the yearly tradition once again today, pardoning two Iowa-grown turkeys at the governor’s mansion in Des Moines.
The governor was joined by his young granddaughters on the lawn behind Terrace Hill as he prepared to pardon a male and female turkey from a farm in Elsworth.
The girls — who range in age from two to six — had a lot of questions when the governor explained what was going to happen to the birds named Bob and Rose.
They asked “why” when Branstad told them he was going to pardon the turkeys, and he told them it would keep them from being eaten and they could go on to Living History Farms where people could see them and pet them.
The turkeys sat quietly while the girls petted them and tried to feed them grass. Two-year-old Sophie was prompted by the governor and others to share her knowledge of turkeys. “What does a turkey say,” the governor asked. After some prompting from her mother and the First Lady, Sophie said, “Gobbel, gobble.”
The Governor wrapped up the event with a proclamation freeing the turkeys. “Now therefore I, Terry E. Branstad, Governor of the State of Iowa do hereby proudly proclaim Bob the turkey and Rose the turkey free from the harm of the carving knives and the gravy on this Thanksgiving Day,” Branstad read.
The governor also made note of the importance of the big bird to Iowa agriculture. “I think we have 130 turkey producers in the state of Iowa, we raise about 11-million turkeys,” Branstad says. “It’s a very lean, nutritious meat. Obviously not just at Thanksgiving, but throughout the year it’s a great high-protein meal to have.”
The president of the Iowa Turkey Federation, Cal Halstead of Roland, brought the birds to the governor’s mansion for the ceremony.
He says the birds came from the farm of Noel Thompson and Paul Hill in Elsworth.
“They’re raised in climate-controlled buildings in year-round production. The barns are always about 70-degrees and they have light and water and feed,” Halstead explained. “And when the temperature is such that it is too warm, or it gets close to the target temperature in the building, then the curtains come down and the turkeys can have fresh air come in and sunlight. And they are raised on a bed of sawdust.”
Halstead says his daughter Carly picked out the names Bob and Rose for this year’s turkeys.