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National Thanksgiving Turkeys at the Historic Willard Hotel

From November 19-21, 2017, the Willard Hotel’s most prominent guests were two 20-week-old turkeys from Minnesota, named Wishbone and Drumstick (a.k.a. this year's Presidential Turkeys). Markus Platzer, the Austrian General Manager of the five-star hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue just blocks away from the White House, was the first to welcome them as they checked in on Sunday. Chosen for their “character, temperament, looks, and foremost showmanship,” one of them was pardoned by President Trump "for the crimes they did not commit” at a ceremony at the White House. Hours before being pardoned, they received a surprise visit by Ambassador Wolfgang Waldner. 

Austrian Ambassador Wolfgang Waldner (left) with Austrian General Manager of the Willard Hotel, Markus Platzer

After the pardoning, the turkeys reside at "Gobbler’s Rest", on the campus of Virginia Tech, where students and veterinarians care for the turkeys and the public can visit them.

This year’s presidential flock was raised on a farm in Western Minnesota under the supervision of National Turkey Federation’s Chairman Carl Wittenburg and his wife Sharlene, along with five young women from the state’s 4-H youth development program.

The National Turkey Federation first presented a turkey to President Harry S. Truman in 1947. Early National Thanksgiving Turkeys were destined for the dinner plate until President George H.W. Bush began the tradition of pardoning the turkey in 1989. The annual presentation to the president has become a highly anticipated 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 the U.S.’ rich Thanksgiving traditions.