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Carl and Sharlene Wittenburg of Alexandria (left), along with their son, Wyatt (right), got to visit with Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who serves as the White House press secretary. The Wittenburgs presented the Presidential Thanksgiving Turkey to President Donald Trump at a ceremony on the White House Lawn Tuesday afternoon. (Contributed)

Trump-pardoned turkey raised in Douglas County

WASHINGTON — At this Thanksgiving celebration, there could only be one "Drumstick."

Two Alexandria, Minn., turkeys were gobbling up attention at the White House on Tuesday afternoon. But only one ended up in the spotlight in a ceremony televised and streamed live on social media.

"Drumstick," the National Thanksgiving Turkey, was presented by Carl Wittenburg, chairman of the National Turkey Federation, along with his wife, Sharlene, to President Donald Trump during a ceremony at the White House celebrating the 70th anniversary of presenting the president with a turkey for Thanksgiving.

Trump said during the ceremony that he was going to be a "much nicer" president than former president Harry S. Truman who actually didn't pardon the presidential turkey during the first event in 1947.

"I will grant a presidential pardon to this turkey," Trump said.

The Wittenburgs, who are from Alexandria, along with their sons, Wyatt and Nick, and five 4-H members from Douglas County who helped the Wittenburgs raise the presidential turkeys, took part in the ceremony. Although the Wittenburgs presented Drumstick to the president, along with his wife, Melania, and son, Baron, the five 4-H members — Kerryn Lund, Katie Kent, Kodi Bundermann, Kayla Egenes and Christina Kuismi — joined the president on the lawn after the official pardoning was performed.

"As we gather together with our families on Thanksgiving and give thanks for our many blessings, we are reminded of the national family to which we all belong as citizens of this incredible country," Trump said. "This Thursday, as we give thanks for our cherished loved ones, let us also renew our bonds of trust, loyalty and affection between our fellow citizens as members of a proud national family of Americans."

Trump also had a bit of fun during the ceremony as he joked about how active he's been in overturning numerous executive actions by his predecessor, former President Barack Obama. But Trump assured the crowd he would not be revoking or overturning Obama's pardon of last year's presidential turkeys, Tator and Tot.

"To Tator and Tot, you can rest easy," he said.

The president then said there was enough talking because Drumstick was waiting to be pardoned. As he approached the turkey, Trump asked if he should touch the turkey and said, "Wow, he's a big bird." Drumstick weighed in at 36 pounds.

He then looked at the turkey and said, "Drumstick, you are hereby pardoned. Great job, everyone."

Drumstick, along with his wingman, or alternate, Wishbone, will join Tator and Tot at Gobbler's Rest on the campus of Virginia Tech in a custom-built enclosure inside the Poultry Science Department's Livestock Judging Pavilion. The turkeys will be available for the public to visit and learn about the university's teaching, research, and outreach programs in animal and poultry sciences and veterinary medicine.

In a press release from the National Turkey Federation, Carl Wittenburg said, "It is an honor to be invited to the White House, to meet President Trump, and to be a part of the National Turkey Federation's 70-year tradition of this presentation to the President. It's in that spirit, at the time of Thanksgiving that we reflect on our nation's many blessings and celebrate the opening of the holiday season."

Celeste Edenloff

Celeste is a reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press and has lived in the Alexandria Lakes Area since 1997. She first worked for the Echo Press as a reporter from 1999 to 2011, and returned in June 2016 to report on the community she calls home. Besides writing articles for the Echo Press, she has a blog, “Newspaper Girl on the Run.” Celeste is on a continuous healthy living journey and loves to teach bootcamp fitness classes and run. She has participated in more than 200 races with her husband, Al, covering the 5K, 10K, 10-mile and half-marathon (13.1 mile) distances.

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