The Minnesota-reared turkeys eager to receive official pardon from President Joe Biden made their regal Washington D.C. debut on Sunday afternoon.
"May I introduce to you Liberty and Bell," said Steve Lykken, CEO of Willmar-based Jennie-0 Turkey Store.
The two, white-feathered, blue-purple-headed gobblers roamed around at the foot of Lykken's podium at the Willard InterContinental Hotel in Washington D.C., only briefly interrupting his speech with a rudimentary cackle.
"They are kind of Minnesota nice," Lykken said.
On Monday, at the White House, the flightless birds will receive a pardon from Biden in a Thanksgiving-week national ceremonial tradition dating back to Harry Truman. The presidential decree will steer Liberty and Bell, two bulky 4-month-old turkeys, away from their usual fate for the festive bird — the dinner plate — with a chance to live out their days in a barn.
The event, in its 76th year, serves as a platform for the turkey industry to do its own boasting. Minnesota is the top turkey production state in the nation, and Lykken serves as the current chair of the National Turkey Federation.
"When I first started my career more than 30 years ago, I never in a million years expected to have an opportunity like this to present two turkeys to the White House," Lykken said.
He also noted the birds — born in July and raised in a Willmar barn — have been raised routinely as other birds under the turkey company's wings: plenty of food and water. But Liberty and Bell, as part of the "presidential flock," have also been exposed to a wide variety of music during their relatively short lives to prepare for the camera-clicking spotlight of the the Washington, D.C., trip.
"I can confirm," Lykken said, "that they are, in fact, Swifties and do enjoy some Prince."
'Tis the season for Thanksgiving pomp and circumstance, as this Wednesday, Gov. Tim Walz will recognize — though not pardon — a turkey at the Capitol.
On Sunday, Jeffrey Ettinger, the University of Minnesota's interim president and former CEO of Hormel Foods, the Austin-based giant that owns Jennie-O, was also on hand to preview Liberty and Bell's retirement community — the care of the U's College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resource Sciences, where they'll serve as ambassadors for animal livestock science.
"Liberty and Bell won't be receiving honorary degrees," Ettinger said. "But they're headed to a quiet and comfortable roost at CFANS."