Iowa Public Television


Bush Pardons National Thanksgiving Turkey

posted on November 28, 2008

Hello, I'm Mark Pearson. Since Gross Domestic Product, or GDP, is widely regarded as the best barometer of economic vitality, analysts monitor it very closely. This week, the signs were not good.

The Commerce Department revised its previous estimate on 3rd Quarter Gross Domestic Product, saying the market value of all goods and services produced in America shrank at an annualized rate of 0.5 percent. That's its worst showing since the aftermath of 9/11 when the nation endured its last recession.

The government also reported this week that orders to U.S. factories for big-ticket manufactured goods fell by 6.2 percent last month, more than double the 3 percent decline economists expected.

And the National Association of Realtors announced sales of existing homes fell more than 3 percent from September, while the median sales price fell 11.3 percent from a year ago. That's the largest year-over-year price decline since 1968.

While this week's reports represent another installment of negative economic news, it's important to keep things in perspective. Though millions of Americans are coping with significant economic hardship, the vast majority will not go hungry this holiday weekend. In fact, most will eat turkey.

According to the National Turkey Federation, 97 percent of Americans eat turkey at Thanksgiving. And the bird which Ben Franklin once proposed as the official United States mascot remains as an American icon.

Bush Pardons National Thanksgiving Turkey For six decades, the official White House turkey has been provided by the National Turkey Federation. Known as the National Thanksgiving Turkey, the bird is raised on a farm owned by the federation's chairman and presented to the President the day before Thanksgiving.

This year, the honor went to second generation turkey farmer Paul Hill of Ellsworth, Iowa, owner of Circle Hill Farms.

Paul Hill, National Turkey Federation: "You know, the most important thing you are going to do, as Chairman, is gonna be to raise the turkey for the President of the United States and that whole event."

The business run at Circle Hill has always been a family affair. But when it came time to assign turkey raising duties the elder Hill bypassed his own son, Nathan.

Nathan Hill, Circle Hill Farms "...he didn't ask me to grow the turkeys. He was smart and asked my boys, Colin and Conner. I just happened to get in on some of the work."

For the past few months, Collin, age nine, and his six-year-old brother Conner, have helped raise the turkeys. Their work has included observing which birds remain calm on a table like the one used at the presentation at the White House.

Collin Hill, Circle Hill Farms: " We change their waters, make sure they have enough feed, and we have to make sure that their calm on the table and we have to play with them.

Conner Hill, Circle Hill Farms: "...and let them outside into the grass and make sure they are running around."

Usually, turkeys from Hill's farm go to West Liberty Foods, a processing facility owned by the Iowa Turkey Growers Cooperative.

From the thousands of turkeys at Circle Hill two were chosen to make the trip to Washington. Ultimately, one was selected for the Rose Garden Ceremony held earlier this week.

The birds, named Pumpkin and Pecan, did not go directly to the kitchen for preparation once arriving at the White House. Instead, both received a Presidential Pardon in the Rose Garden and were released.

Accompanied by more than 20 members of his immediate family, Hill was given a few minutes to speak with the President before going to the Rose Garden. Last week, at a press conference, he told Market to Market what he planned to say. (Date; November 19, 2008)

Paul Hill, Circle Hill Farms: "I'm gonna tell him how proud I am of the fact, of course, that we live in a country where we have freedom of choice. And no matter what happens to you economically in life, there's always opportunity. "

President George W. Bush:(sic) " I want to thank Paul and his family for supplying us with a fine turkey but I'm going to continue the tradition and pardon this bird."

Pumpkin and Pecan were escorted by the Hill family to Disneyland in Anaheim, California to take on duties as Grand Marshals of the Disney Thanksgiving Day Parade. After participating in the festivities the pair will live out the rest of their days as residents of Frontier Land.

Tags: animals birds George W. Bush holidays livestock news presidents Thanksgiving