Thanksgiving Day is the harvest festival that is celebrated primarily in Canada and the United States. Though the festival is basically religious in origin, today it is also recognized as a secular holiday. Presidential pardon forms an important part of the Thanksgiving ceremony. The tradition of pardoning a turkey on the eve of Thanksgiving, by the president, is believed to have been initiated by Harry Truman, over 50 years ago. Truman was the head of National Turkey Foundation and had got the idea of the festival from President Lincoln.
President Lincoln had declined from killing the turkey that his son, Tad had reared and grown close to. Truman took the same concept and framed that Presidential pardon for a turkey will ensure that it will not be killed, but allowed to die its natural death instead. However, there are no documents available in the Truman library, which declare that Harry Truman was indeed the founder of this 'Presidential Pardon' tradition. The custom of pardoning the turkey was formalized during 1989 and since then, the custom has been followed every year.
Some of the best turkeys are raised for the Thanksgiving Day feast of the President every year and presented during the holiday ceremony. Usually, the turkeys of the Broad Breasted are used for the occasion. The President of the United States arbitrarily chooses one of them as the National Thanksgiving Turkey and that particular turkey is pardoned at the last minute. It gets the gift of life and gains all the media attention. The chosen turkey spends rest of its days in peace at the Kidwell Farm at Frying Pan Park, in Herndon, Virginia.
The turkeys who have been pardoned by the President are the only lucky ones, who need not worry about being served as Thanksgiving centerpiece to the guests. They can live to their ripe old age and die a natural death. Rest of the turkeys are slaughtered and cooked for the elaborate Thanksgiving feast. Frying Pan Park, where the pardoned turkeys are kept, resembles the rural look of a family farm of Fairfax Country from 1920s. Kidwell Farm is a well-known petting farm here.
There are many other species of livestock that are housed at Kidwell Farm, represent the ones that were commonly found in the farms of those days such as draft horses, chickens, peacocks, rabbits, sheep, goats, pigs and cows. As many as 1,500,000 people visit the farm every year and can have the enchanting view of these animals and birds. The farm is open to visitors from 9 am to 5 pm. One can pet the friendly farm animals here, watch the farm hands at work, enjoy picnics; go for hay rides and also stroll through the country.