No Country for Old Birds

Morven Park opens its doors to the presidential pardoned turkeys this weekend in a special Open House event.

By Robby Osborne



For the first time, Morven Park will open its gates to the fugitives-from-dinner, Popcorn and Caramel. These two turkeys were granted “a full reprieve from cranberry sauce and stuffing” in November 2013 by President Barack Obama. After all the hashtags of a Facebook and Twitter campaign to save one of the birds were counted, Popcorn was the fan favorite on his to be pardoned. Not wanting to separate Popcorn from lifelong companion Caramel, Obama had them both shipped to holding at Mount Vernon before sending them to Morven Park.

Popcorn and Caramel arrived at Morven State Park last week, and are still being processed. 

This weekend, Morven Park will debut their newest inmates by having an open house for everyone to see these jailbirds free of charge from noon to 4 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday. As part of the open house, the mansion and carriage museum located in the park will be open to the public, and visitors can freely wander around the first floor of the mansion. 

Once they’ve finished processing this weekend, Popcorn and Caramel will meet a bronze turkey named Franklin who will show them the ropes to being a resident at Moven Park’s Turkey Hill Farm. Former Gov. Westmoreland Davis raised 20,000 bronze turkeys at the park during the Great Depression, and Franklin is an homage to that history.

Popcorn and Caramel are not the first turkeys to be pardoned. Legend has it that during the Lincoln administration, Tad Lincoln grew quite fond of one of the birds, and begged his presidential pop for a stay of execution. President Lincoln, not one to deny his son, granted his request. Little Tad soon trained the the turkey, now named Jack, to follow him around the White House Grounds. 

Ten years before Lynyrd Skynyrd crafted their masterpiece, “Free Bird,” President John F. Kennedy sent his presidential turkey back to its home farm to “let it grow.”

Turkey pardoning didn’t become a tradition until 1989 when President George H.W. Bush specifically pardoned a turkey and shipped him off to live at Frying Pan Park in Herndon, solidifying President Ronald Reagan’s tongue-in-cheek pardon in 1987. Every president since Bush has pardoned a turkey around Thanksgiving. 

If their time on at Morven goes well, next year, Popcorn and Caramel might have two more free-birds joining them on the farm.

Morven Park
17263 Planter Lane, Leesburg, 20176 
Free on Feb 1 & 2,