The turkey President Barack Obama will pardon this year for Thanksgiving is going to George Washington's house, not Mickey Mouse's, after his life is spared.
A Disneyland spokesman said Friday that after five years of taking turkeys, the park will no longer become home to the bird that the president pardons in an annual White House ceremony. Instead, after Obama pardons the turkey Wednesday, the fortunate fowl will live out the rest of its life at George Washington's Mount Vernon Estate in Virginia.
"We're moving on to do new things and surprise our guests with new things," said Disneyland spokesman John McClintock.
Presidents have been pardoning a turkey at Thanksgiving for years, but where the bird goes after its White House cameo has changed. For 15 years, until 2004, the birds went to a historic farm in Herdon, Va.: Frying Pan Farm Park.
Disneyland took over in 2005 when the California park was celebrating its 50th Anniversary. The pardoned turkey and an alternate — Marshmallow and Yam — got a police escort to the airport and flew first class to California.
Marshmallow became the grand marshal of Disneyland's Thanksgiving parade, and the sign above his float read "The Happiest Turkey on Earth." The turkeys then retired to a coop at the park's Big Thunder Ranch, where three of the other pardoned birds — "Courage" and "Carolina" from 2009 and 2008's "Pecan" — still live. Florida's Disney World got the birds from 2007, when they arrived on a United Airlines flight that was renamed "Turkey One."
The 21-week-old turkey being pardoned this year will arrive in Washington from California next week and stay at the W Hotel, just a block from the White House. Once at Mount Vernon he'll be driven to his pen in a horse-drawn carriage and be greeted with a trumpet fanfare.
Emily Coleman Dibella, a spokeswoman for Mount Vernon, says it's appropriate that the turkey will go to Washington's home. In 1789 Washington became the first president to issue a Thanksgiving proclamation, and the Washingtons also raised and ate turkeys at Mount Vernon. Wild turkeys still roam the estate.
The pardoned Tom will not, however, be put on permanent display at Mount Vernon, which prides itself on historical accuracy. The large white turkey the president will pardon is not like the smaller brown birds the Washingtons would have had. After Mount Vernon's holiday festivities end Jan. 6 the turkey and his alternate will be cared for behind the scenes.
Disneyland is owned by The Walt Disney Co.