Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Popcorn or Caramel? - White House Runs Social Media Contest To Choose Turkey For President Obama's Thanksgiving Ceremony

The White House graphic for the contenders
Deadline to vote is 8:00 PM ET tonight; both turkeys will be pardoned, but only one gets a star turn with the President...
Washington, DC - For the second year, the White House is asking Americans to vote on social media to select the lucky turkey who will join President Barack Obama on Wednesday at 1:15 PM for the annual Thanksgiving pardon ceremony.  The two Presidential contenders, raised in Minnesota, are officially named Popcorn and Caramel, the White House announced today. 

Both birds will be spared the Thanksgiving carving knife, but only the tom that gets the most votes will join President Obama at the White House ceremony.

Social media users can vote on the White House Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram accounts with the hashtags #TeamCaramel or #TeamPopcorn.  The deadline is 8:00 PM ET tonight (more info here).

"We'll count up the hashtags to make sure there's no fowl play," the White House said on its blog.

To help America decide, the White House has created Soundcloud recordings of the two toms gobbling, graphics with their "stats," and an Instagram video.

The White House banner for the contest
"People all across the country are flocking to cast a vote, so be sure to learn more about Caramel and Popcorn, listen to them croon their distinct gobble sounds and then tell us who you think should be named the National Thanksgiving Turkey!" the White House said. 

The National Turkey Federation makes the annual presentation, now in its 66th year.  Chairman John Burkel, a fourth generation family farmer, raised Popcorn and Caramel on his farm in the tiny town of Badger, Minnesota, located just miles from the Canadian border.

The duo were hatched on July 8th, and Burkel selected them and 78 other poults for the Presidential Flock before honing it down to eight contenders in recent weeks.  The duo arrived in DC on Monday, driven the 1,500 miles from Minnesota.   Click here to read more about the birds and their training for the ceremony.

"Caramel and Popcorn may have been raised together, but each has flown their own path," the White House said. 

"Caramel is a steady and deliberate bird that enjoys soybean meal and rocking out to Lady Gaga. When Popcorn is feeling peckish, he can't stop snacking on his namesake, corn, and has been known to strut around to Beyonce's 'Halo'."  

Caramel (L) and Popcorn in DC on Tuesday
The turkeys also love singer John Mayer, Burkel said on Tuesday morning during a press conference in DC, where the duo were introduced to the media.  

"That's because I love John Mayer," Burkel said; he spent weeks training the toms, and playing them his favorite music.  Vivaldi was also blasted for the birds, Burkel said.

Burkel was apparently unaware that the White House was running the selection contest, because he announced he is partial to Popcorn and said he would suggest the bird for the ceremony with the President.

After working with the toms for weeks, Popcorn, who is slightly larger than Caramel, seems to be best able to handle his Presidential duties, Burkel said.  These primarily include standing on a table and remaining calm in front of a noisy crowd of guests and media at the White House.

The pardon ceremony will be in the Rose Garden if the weather is sunny and under the North Portico if it is raining--or snowing.  Foul (and fowl) weather is predicted for Wednesday in DC.   UPDATE, 5:00 PM: The ceremony will be under the North Portico, the White House announced, "due to inclement weather."

Popcorn and Caramel are the fifth set of Thanksgiving toms President Obama has pardoned--and the second pair from Minnesota.  2011's  Liberty and alternate Peace were raised in Wilmar, Minn.  In 2012, the White House also ran a social media contest for Cobbler and alternate Gobbler, to choose which would be at the ceremony with the President.

The turkeys are staying at the Willard InterContinental hotel, just a block from the White House, along with the entire Burkel family: Farmer John's wife and five kids, ranging in age from kindergarten through college.  They will all be at the White House on Wednesday.

The eight turkeys President Obama pardoned between 2009-2012 are all dead.  The White House tradition formally dates back to 1947, though Presidents before that year were receiving turkeys, too.  The first Minnesota bird pardoned was in 1949, by President Harry S. Truman.

*CLICK HERE for links to all Thanksgiving posts


*White House graphics; photo by Eddie Gehman Kohan/Obama Foodorama