Being the traditional presidentially pardoned turkey may be a pretty good life—this year’s bird will live out the rest of his at George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate—but the bird never had accommodations as nice as he did the night before his White House visit.
The California-raised “Apple,” along with the alternate turkey, “Cider,” was the centerpiece of a tradition begun in 1947 under President Truman, in which American turkey growers have presented a bird to the White House. This year, the fowl duo had a special treat: their own room at the W Hotel, a block from the White House, complete with wood chips instead of furniture and a W “munchie box” filled with treats including cornmeal, acorns, and cranberries rather than the chocolates and pretzels that welcome most guests.
While Apple’s human chaperones—National Turkey Federation chairman Yubert Envia and Ira Brister, a production manager at the birds’ home farm—looked on, he even roamed the hotel’s roof deck overlooking the Mall. That perch affords a better view of Washington than nearly any turkey has ever had, seeing as the domesticated versions that end up on dinner tables mostly can’t fly.
This article first appeared in the January 2011 issue of The Washingtonian.