Pumpkin and Pecan off the Thanksgiving menu

Huffstutter is a Times staff writer.

At least two frequent fliers will be getting a good deal on holiday travel and accommodations this Thanksgiving.

Pumpkin and Pecan, the lucky turkeys whose lives were spared by the annual Thanksgiving presidential pardon Wednesday, will fly first-class on United Airlines to Los Angeles, where one of them will be grand marshal in Disneyland’s Thanksgiving parade today. The pair will then take up residence in a turkey house in the amusement park’s Frontierland.

“In recent weeks, I’ve talked a lot about sprinting to the finish,” said President Bush, surrounded by pumpkins and cornstalks in Wednesday’s Rose Garden ceremony. “Yet I’ve assured these turkeys they will not be trotting to their finish.”

The turkey pardon is a White House tradition that dates to the Truman administration. This year’s duo received their names after an online vote on the White House website. Runners-up included Roost and Run and Yam and Jam.

“This is an election season,” Bush said. “So it is fitting that the names of these two birds were chosen through the democratic process.”


Pumpkin and the backup bird, Pecan -- whom the president joked was being held in an “undisclosed location” just in case “the main act chickens out” -- hail from Ellsworth, Iowa. They were chosen from more than 4,500 candidates based on their struts, wattles and personalities.

In years past, the pardoned turkeys were sent to Frying Pan Farm Park, an animal sanctuary in Virginia, after the White House ceremony. Since Disney requested the birds for its 50th anniversary in 2005, however, they have been sent to the Golden State.

Leaders of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals have objected to both locations. This Thanksgiving, PETA President Ingrid Newkirk had a stern reminder for Bush. “You might be a lame duck,” she wrote to him, “but you still have the power to help lame turkeys.”

Regardless of their ultimate destination, the birds usually do not roost for long -- bred to be eaten, their life spans are often short. But for the moment, Pumpkin and Pecan are perhaps the luckiest birds alive.

Bush left the ceremony after giving thanks to the troops, the American people and his family -- including his mother, former First Lady Barbara Bush, who is doing well at a Houston hospital after surgery for a perforated ulcer.

Bush is expected to spend the long weekend at Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland. The menu will include cranberry sauce, buttered mashed potatoes and free-range roast turkey.

“He wasn’t pardoning all turkeys; just those two,” said White House spokesman Carlton Carroll.