Wednesday's trip to the Twin Cities gave two special turkeys the chance to see if they could hold their own with an inquisitive group and flashing cameras.
They did just fine with the morning visit to Epiphany Catholic Elementary School in Coon Rapids. Here, four classes of first graders met the birds and learned a lot about Minnesota turkey production.
The turkeys are on the road in anticipation of a formal invitation from the White House to come and celebrate Thanksgiving as the 2011 National Thanksgiving Turkey. Minnesota is unofficially the state to provide the turkey this year, thanks to Rick Huisinga, Willmar Poultry company executive and chairman of the National Turkey Federation.
The special turkey eggs were laid at a WPC farms in early June and hatch in July. Last month, a small number of male turkeys, or toms, were selected and moved to a facility just for them.
WPC and the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association selected four FFA students from Willmar Area High School to help with the birds' care and to provide that increased interaction. The FFA team members visit the birds for an hour each day to check the birds' feed and water, and to clean the pens when necessary. In addition, they sit amongst the birds to acclimate them to movement and sounds not normally found in a turkey barn, such as music, clapping and human conversation. They also pet the birds as part of the taming routine. In the coming weeks, the kids will begin picking up the birds and placing them on a table in simulation of the White House ceremony.
MTGA is hosting and maintaining a special section on its website for the project. The website includes pictures, video and a weekly blog written by the FFA team chronicling their experiences with the birds and the project as a whole. The site also features fun turkey puzzles, mazes and color sheets for kids as well as information for parents on nutrition, food safety and plenty of family-friendly turkey recipes.
To view the site, go to www.minnesotaturkey.com/presidentialturkey