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Minnesota turkeys win White House pardons

Posted by: Jennifer Brooks under President Obama, Recount Updated: November 27, 2013 - 1:40 PM

The people have spoken, and Popcorn is America's turkey.

President Obama officially pardoned the Minnesota-born bird Wednesday afternoon. Popcorn edged out flockmate Caramel in a popularity contest, after the White House turned the job of choosing the official National Thanksgiving Turkey over to Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

"The office of the presidency -- the most powerful position in the world -- brings with it many awesome and solemn responsibilities. This is not one of them," joked the president, who was joined by daughters Sasha and Malia for the annual rite. "Generally speaking, Thanksgiving is a bad day to be a turkey. Especially at a house with two dogs. So I salute our two guests of honor -- Caramel and Popcorn -- for their bravery."

The people had spoken -- for #TeamCaramel or #TeamPopcorn -- and Popcorn, a splendid white puffball, carried the day.

"The competition was stiff, but we can officially declare that Popcorn is the winner -- proving that even a turkey with a funny name can find a place in politics," Obama said. "As for Caramel, he’s sticking around, and he’s already busy raising money for his next campaign."

Caramel may have lost the popularity contest, but he won a pardon anyway. The big birds will spend the rest of the holidays at George Washington's home, on display as part of the annual Christmas at Mount Vernon celebration. Then they'll retire to Morven Park’s Turkey Hill Farm in Leesburg, Va.

John Burkel of Badger, Minn., chairman of thee National Turkey Federation, raised Caramel, Popcorn and Minnesota's official Thanksgiving turkey (who ended up in a St. Paul Salvation Army kitchen.) The birds' names were chose by Roseau County schoolchildren and a group of Badger High School students joined Burkel at the White House Wednesday.

As Obama pardoned the birds, he announced that two replacement turkeys, already dressed, would be donated to a nearby Washington, D.C., food shelf.

"Popcorn, you have a full reprieve from cranberry sauce and stuffing. We wish you well," he said.  "And we’re going to give Carmel a break as well."

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