NTF Chairman Presents President Bush with "Flyer" The National Thanksgiving Turkey

October 24, 2012
Washington, D.C.

Sherrie Rosenblatt, National Turkey Federation
202-898-0100 ext. 227, srosenblatt@turkeyfed.org

President George W. Bush and National Turkey Federation (NTF) Chairman Mike Briggs continued a 59-year-old holiday tradition today when Briggs presented the president with the National Thanksgiving Turkey in a White House Rose Garden ceremony.

Briggs gave Bush “Flyer,” a 20-week-old, 36-pound tom. Visitors to the White House Web site (www.whitehouse.gov) voted on the name for the National Thanksgiving Turkey and its alternate, “Fryer.”

The National Thanksgiving Turkey presentation has become an annual ritual in the nation’s capital, signaling the unofficial beginning of the holiday season and providing the president an opportunity to reflect publicly on the meaning of Thanksgiving.

“Tomorrow is our day of Thanksgiving. It's a national observance first proclaimed by George Washington,” said President Bush. “In our journey across the centuries from a few tiny settlements to a prosperous and powerful nation. Americans have always been a grateful people, and we are this year as well. We're grateful for our beautiful land. We're grateful for a harvest big enough to feed us all, plus much of the world. We're grateful for our freedom. We're grateful for our families. And we're grateful for life itself.”

President Bush then “pardoned” “Flyer” and “Fryer.” Later that day, the turkeys were flown first class on United Airlines to the Disneyland Resort in California. “Flyer” will serve as grand marshal of “Disney’s Thanksgiving Day Parade” as part of the “Year of a Million Dreams” celebration. After the parade, guests will be able to visit “Flyer” at Santa’s Reindeer Roundup at Big Thunder Ranch in the park’s Frontierland.

NTF President Alice L. Johnson, D.V.M., joined Bush, Briggs and his wife Sue and their two sons, Matthew and Daniel, at the event.

“It is a true honor and a once-in-a-lifetime experience for my family and I to represent our industry at the White House during the National Thanksgiving Turkey presentation,” said Briggs. “This event plays such an important role in what is a uniquely American holiday, and the turkey industry is very proud to be associated with both.

“Having the opportunity for the National Thanksgiving Turkey to be invited again to participate in the Disneyland parade is a wonderful bonus,” Briggs added.

The National Thanksgiving Turkey and its alternate were raised outside Monett, Mo., under the supervision of Briggs, president of Willow Brook Foods, headquartered in Springfield, Mo.

Briggs delegated the day-to-day responsibilities of raising the birds to Lynn Nutt, Willow Brook’s director of live operations. “Flyer” was raised using normal feeding and other production techniques. The one exception is that the bird was provided increased interaction with people so that he would be prepared for his roles at the White House ceremony and then at Disneyland.

Nutt handled the turkey during the ceremony.

Willow Brook Foods is the 15th largest turkey processor in the United States with more than $225 million in annual sales revenue. The company employs 800 people at its processing and further processing facilities in Springfield. Willow Brook Foods’ goal is to be a leader among deli, retail, warehouse club and foodservice protein manufacturers.

“Flyer” and “Fryer” stayed at the Hotel Washington in a special penthouse room the night before the presentation.

Jaindl’s Turkey Farm in Orefield, Pa., gave President Bush’s family two dressed turkeys, packaged in specially designed Cryovac/Sealed Air Corporation bags, to enjoy for their Thanksgiving dinner.

The National Turkey Federation (NTF) is the national advocate for all segments of the turkey industry, providing services and conducting activities that increase demand for its members' products by protecting and enhancing their ability to profitably provide wholesome, high-quality, nutritious products. Its award-winning web site, www.eatturkey.com, offers consumers, food professionals and the media an extensive library of information including healthy eating and restaurant trends, turkey cuts and purchasing tips, turkey nutrition and cooking techniques, and turkey facts and trivia. Additionally, the site presents a searchable database of more than 1,500 recipes, offers a recipe E-mail program and provides special seasonal and holiday ideas. The National Turkey Federation is headquartered in Washington, D.C.