ANAHEIM, Calif. – President Bush spared two turkeys from becoming Thanksgiving dinner. Instead, the birds are going to Disneyland.
Thousands of people voted on the White House Web site to name the national turkey "Marshmallow" and an alternate called "Yam." At a ceremony Tuesday, Bush peered into Marshmallow's eyes, stroked its white fluffy feathers and patted its red head.
In years past, turkeys spared in presidential ceremonies were sent to live at a local farm.
"Marshmallow and Yam were a little skeptical about going to a place called Frying Pan Park," Bush said to giggling students from Clarksville Elementary School in Clarksville, Md.
This year, the turkeys, raised by James and Vicki Trites of Henning, Minn., will be honorary grand marshals at Disneyland's Thanksgiving Day Parade. "I know Marshmallow and Yam are going to feel pretty good strutting around sunny California, remembering the cold days of Minnesota," Bush said.
The turkey ceremony, which usually is held in the Rose Garden, was moved inside to the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. Vice President Dick Cheney looked on as Bush talked of giving thanks for the generosity extended to the victims of the Gulf Coast hurricanes and for U.S. troops serving abroad.
"We think of our military families who will have an empty seat at the table this Thanksgiving," he said.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which in the past has been critical because presidential turkeys have been sent to a working farm rather than an animal sanctuary, praised the decision to send them to Disneyland.
"I don't suppose we could have asked for better than Disneyland and southern California," said Bruce Friedrich of PETA. "They'll have mental and physical stimulation as well as proper care and a nice climate."
Such turkeys require additional care if they're going to be kept alive long in captivity, Friedrich said.