Lucky Turkeys Get Spa Treatment Before Presidential ‘Pardon’

A few lucky turkeys got a special spa treatment at a swank Washington, D.C., hotel this week head of the annual White House Rose Garden pardoning next month, according to People magazine.

The Willard Intercontinental Hotel offered the spa treatment for the presidential turkeys for the 11th straight year, with the hotel staff referring to their feathered guests as VITs, or Very Important Turkeys.

“It’s a fantastic tradition, it’s very exciting, we love it,” Janet Scanlon, the Willard Intercontinental marketing director, told the magazine. “They’ll probably get some feather fluffing – like a haircut. Maybe a massage. They will be able to order room service and our chef is planning to cook up some special dishes for them as well.”

It’s better than becoming the dish for these turkeys, who will also get some special primping as they prepare to go to the White House next month. People said hotel workers went as far as covering their hotel room floor with wood chips to make them feel at home.

“They’ll probably get some feather fluffing – like a haircut,” Scanlon said to the magazine. “Maybe a massage. They will be able to order room service and our chef is planning to cook up some special dishes for them as well.”

People wrote that the National Thanksgiving Turkey presentation started with President Harry S. Truman in 1947, but President George H.W. Bush actually started the tradition of “pardoning” a turkey in 1989. The magazine said previous White House Thanksgiving turkeys were not as lucky.

While the public presentation reportedly started with Truman, the act of giving turkeys to the White House as Thanksgiving gifts dates back to the 1870s when Rhode Island poultry dealer Horace Vose started delivering fattened birds to the residence, according to the White House Historical Association.

Male turkey before Thanksgiving.
Male turkey before Thanksgiving.

Jeff Sveen, chairman of the National Turkey Federation, started with 50 turkeys and eventually narrowed the group down to the lucky 10 who made the trip from his South Dakota farm to Washington, D.C., per People.

The birds will get to tour schools to get used to being around crowds.

“As soon as they’re born we watch their character, their personality and demeanor to see whether they’ll let you pet them … it’s somewhat of a beauty pageant as we pick the ones to bring with us,” Sveen told People.

When the birds are done with their official duties, the VITs will head to Gobblers Rest, a special facility at Virginia Tech, to spend their retirement days out of the political spotlight, People noted.