111417-nws-turkey-pardon

Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford pardons two 19-week-old male turkeys during the annual ceremony on Monday at the state Capitol in Bismarck. Gov. Doug Burgum was out of town and passed the official duty to Sanford to save Pepper, left, and Salt from being a Thanksgiving Day main course. 

On Monday, Lt. Governor Brent Sanford used his power to pardon two feathered brothers that were sentenced to be stuffed.

They were calm and well-behaved, as they perched on a conference room table, waiting for Sanford to commute their sentences.

"This may be the most important thing I do as lieutenant governor," Sanford said, right before granting them amnesty. "May they go in peace and not leave anything behind."

Luckily, they didn't.

The two turkeys named Salt and Pepper, each 19 weeks old and weighing about 40 pounds, were part of the annual turkey pardoning ceremony at the state Capitol.

Typically the governor pardons the Thanksgiving turkey, but Gov. Doug Burgum was unable to attend the event because he had to chair the Fargo-Moorhead Area Flood Diversion Task Force, according to Sanford.

The turkeys are from Harvey Hofner's farm in Wyndmere, and they are part of the same flock being primed to be pardoned by President Donald Trump.

Carl and Sharlene Wittenburg, of Alexandria, Minn., this summer hatched a special "presidential flock" of turkeys. One fortunate turkey and his not-so-fortunate alternate will make the trip to the White House next week.

Carl Wittenburg said his father, a lifelong turkey farmer in Wyndmere, was instrumental in transitioning the turkey industry from the Bronze breed of turkeys with dark feathers to the white-feathered turkeys in the late 1950s.

In his remarks, Sanford spoke about the nearly 1 million turkeys produced every year on the state's nine turkey farms.

"We’re proud of our strong animal agriculture industry in North Dakota," he said.

At Monday's ceremony, the North Dakota Turkey Federation donated 24 frozen turkeys, 12 each, to the Abused Adult Resource Center and Ruth Meiers Hospitality House.

(Reach Blair Emerson at 701-250-8251 or Blair.Emerson@bismarcktribune.com)

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Education and Health Reporter