It's that time of the year again folks, when two lucky turkeys come to Washington, spend time at a swanky hotel, get some facetime with President Obama at the White House, before spending the rest of their days at a historic Virginia farm.
But those days are always short.
Gobbler and Cobbler – last year's set of turkeys who attended the annual Presidential Turkey Pardon – have both died, Whispers has learned. Gobbler, Cobbler's understudy, died in February. "Gobbler passed away suddenly. It was very quick. We don't know what the illness was," Rebecca Aloisi, vice president for marketing at Mount Vernon, where the turkeys went after their 15 minutes of fame at the official ceremony in 2012, told Whispers back in April.
Cobbler, 2012's official pardoned turkey, lived through the summer and was euthanized on Aug. 22. (The turkeys always come to Washington in pairs, and while one attends the pardoning ceremony, both get to live.)
Liberty, a turkey from 2011, had the longest lifespan of the crop, living to the ripe old age of 2, before being euthanized on April 26, due to heart failure. All three turkeys were meant for consumption before they were spared, and thus cursed with a bevvy of health problems related to obesity.
Though it's not all bad news. The turkeys live a "spoiled" lifestyle at Mount Vernon says Melissa Wood, the estate's director of media relations. "We have operations and maintenance staff here who can build a special pen for them," Wood told Whispers. "So we end up doing that every year and certainly we've made adjustments to those pens if they haven't looked comfortable." Additionally, the turkeys get tons of attention from guests. "People like any presidential connection," Wood said. "They seem to really brighten up people's visit to Mount Vernon."
And as for this year's birds, a flock is already being groomed for the job from the small town of Badger, Minn. The 2013 chairman of the National Turkey Federation, John Burkel, is the owner of the birds. He started with 80 potential presidential turkeys and will have to narrow his selection down to the two best to deal with all the lights, cameras and action of the Presidential Turkey Pardoning ceremony.
"We play the radio during the day...they've been listening to Vivaldi and John Mayer intermittently pretty much all summer," Burkel told WDAZ, the local ABC affiliate out of Grand Forks, N.D..
Once the two lucky turkeys arrive in Washington they'll be put up in the Willard Hotel. They will meet the press on Nov. 26 at a special ceremony before being taken to the White House the following day for the big gig. Afterward, they, too, will spend time at Mount Vernon until Jan. 6. But this year the turkeys will live out the rest of their (inevitably) short lives at another historic Virginia residence, Morven Park.