For two lucky birds, it’s gravy

Times Staff Writers

Flyer and Fryer might be America’s luckiest turkeys. Thanks to an official presidential pardon, neither is in danger of being jabbed in the thigh with a meat thermometer today.

“Flyer is probably wondering where he’s going to wind up tomorrow. He’s probably thinking he’s going to end up on somebody’s table,” President Bush said during a Wednesday morning ceremony in the White House Rose Garden. “Well, I’m happy to report that he and Fryer both have many tomorrows ahead of them.”

Instead of ending up in a thankful American’s stomach, the two Missouri turkeys were flown to Los Angeles to serve as honorary grand marshals of Disneyland’s Thanksgiving Day parade today. After the parade, they will take up residence in a specially constructed turkey house in Disneyland’s Frontierland.


Turkey-lovers should visit quickly, however: These birds are bred to be eaten and rarely live long, even after their reprieve. Last year’s pardon recipients, Marshmallow and Yam, have already passed on, said National Turkey Federation spokeswoman Sherrie Rosenblatt.

Disneyland asked for the pardoned turkeys last year as part of its 50th anniversary celebration, and the Anaheim theme park repeated the invitation this year. For the previous 15 years, the birds had gone to Frying Pan Park, an animal sanctuary in Herndon, Va.

The turkey pardon is a White House Thanksgiving tradition that dates to the Truman administration. Each year, the Turkey Federation’s chairman chooses a cadre of elite turkeys, which are specially raised to get used to being around people. Of those, the two best are picked to go to Washington.

One receives the pardon and gets to meet the president -- this year it was Flyer -- and the other is the official alternate. The names were chosen through Internet balloting that attracted more than 20,000 votes on the White House website,

Lynn Nutt, the Monett, Mo., farmer who raised the turkeys, said Flyer and Fryer were picked for their congeniality. But 19-week-old Flyer looked none too happy as Nutt struggled to hold him for a group of about 50 excited Girl Scouts invited to the White House for the ceremony.

“He’s getting anxious,” Nutt said.

Maybe, the Scouts suggested, Flyer feared he might end up fried anyway.

“I think the turkey will be cooked by next year,” said 15-year-old Sharifa Austin of Washington.

And how did Flyer feel about all the excitement?

“Gobble, gobble,” he said.