Inside the Lush Lifestyle the National Thanksgiving Turkeys Lead Before They’re Pardoned

The birds spend a couple nights at a swanky Washington hotel before they meet President Obama at the White House.

Nov. 26, 2014, midnight

The Wil­lard In­ter­Con­tin­ent­al Hotel has seen a num­ber of im­port­ant guests in its 164-year his­tory. Charles Dick­ens. Mar­tin Luth­er King, Jr. Al­most every Amer­ic­an pres­id­ent. And this week, two over­sized white broad-breasted tur­keys.

The tur­keys stay at the swanky Wash­ing­ton hotel for the White House’s an­nu­al pres­id­en­tial tur­key par­don, which spares two birds—the Na­tion­al Thanks­giv­ing Tur­key and an al­tern­ate—from be­com­ing din­ner. The White House has named last year’s birds Mac and Cheese, and Pres­id­ent Obama pardoned both for crimes they had not com­mit­ted.

Na­tion­al Journ­al vis­ited last year’s pair in their room at the Wil­lard—yes, they had their own room—be­fore the big ce­re­mony. The lux­uri­ous third-floor room, which costs up­wards of $350 a night, looked as it would to any oth­er guest. There was a wi­descreen TV, a mini fridge, views of down­town Wash­ing­ton. And then there was the small entry­way covered in a thick lay­er of wood shav­ings.

Gary Cooper, chairman of the National Turkey Federation and COO of Cooper Farms in northwestern Ohio, gestures toward the birds.  National Journal/Chet Susslin
The turkeys puffed out their feathers while panting and letting out the occasional grunt to display their considerable size at about 50 pounds.  National Journal/Chet Susslin
The two turkeys spent the night in their penned in area covered with saw dust.  National Journal/Chet Susslin
Cole Cooper, of Cooper Farms, looks over the two turkey's, nicknamed Virgil and Homer, after Cole's grandfather. The turkeys will eventually get formal names from the White House.  National Journal/Chet Susslin
Some saw dust has migrated into the hallway of the Willard InterContinental Hotel from the room the two birds had all to themselves the previous evening.  National Journal/Chet Susslin

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