Clinton-raised turkeys traveling to D.C. for Thanksgiving turkey pardon

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Friday, November 22, 2019
Clinton-raised turkeys head to Washington for presidentail pardon
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Clinton-raised turkeys head to Washington for presidentail pardon

CLINTON, N.C. (WTVD) -- A Clinton farmer is getting the chance of a lifetime, seeing his turkeys take part in the National Thanksgiving Turkey Presentation.

Wellie Jackson, a Butterball turkey farmer based out of Clinton, was selected nine months ago.

"I got the phone call, and I walked out and the kids came in and they didn't know if I'd won the lottery or seen a ghost," Jackson said.

On Friday morning, members of Butterball, the National Turkey Federation and American Humane met on Jackson's farm to send off the turkeys and credit all of the hard work.

Leslee Oden, the Vice President of Legislative Affairs at the NTF, went to the podium to speak on the condition of the birds.

"They look fantastic and we're excited to show them off in D.C. next week in the White House, in the Rose Garden," Oden said.

Meanwhile, N.C. Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler took time to mention the importance of North Carolina farmers being recognized on a national level.

"North Carolina is deserving of having these turkeys go to the White House, and I congratulate Butterball and the Jackson family for being the representatives of North Carolina," Troxler added.

Jackson says they raised the Presidential Flock like the rest of the turkeys: in a clean, healthy, and proper environment; however, they also had prepare the flock for being in the spotlight.

"I had to get trained to deal with the media, and they've had to get trained to deal with all these people, the lights, the sound," Jackson said.

The 15-year Butterball farmer said preparing these turkeys included: getting them out to socialize, teaching them how to stay still on a table, and even playing some soccer in their enclosure.

"Getting them ready for the Governor's Mansion and the White House," Jackson added.

Jackson calls this opportunity one of the greatest milestones in his career, and he attested it to all the hard work he and his family put into farming.

"Just an average person trying to provide for my family and feed other families in a healthy, humane way," Jackson said.

This is the 72nd National Thanksgiving Turkey Presentation; the first one happened in 1947 during Harry S. Truman's presidency.

George H.W. Bush started the pardoning tradition in 1989.

Jackson said his turkeys will stay in a 5-star suite in Washington, D.C., starting Sunday until they meet President Donald Trump on Tuesday afternoon.