Someone You Should Know: Two SD Turkeys to Meet President Trump On Thanksgiving Day

HURON, S.D. – Every Thanksgiving, the President of the United States is gifted a turkey – and usually pardons it as a Thanksgiving tradition.

This year, for the first time, that special turkey will come from right here in South Dakota.

At just around six weeks old, nearly 50 turkeys on a turkey farm in Riverside Colony near Huron are living the “suite life.”

“They have air conditioning on this hot day that we don’t,” said Jeff Sveen, Chairman of the National Turkey Federation and Chairman of the Board of Dakota Provisions. “They’re fed a nice, special diet.”

That’s because they’re primping to become presidential turkeys.

Two toms will be picked from the bunch to head to Washington D.C. this fall to meet President Donald Trump on Thanksgiving Day.

“We want a turkey that has character,” said Sveen. “I mean turkeys, they’re not like humans, but every turkey has a personality and we want the right personality of that turkey to go.”

For the last 70 years, the National Turkey Federation has gifted the president a turkey for the holiday.

“I will be the one up there with the president at the podium,” said Sven.

Sveen had a lot to do with South Dakota earning the honor. He’s the new chairman of the National Turkey Federation this year, which means birds from his state get to meet the president on Thanksgiving Day.

“That’s exciting that we can show people South Dakota, show what we have out here.”

The poultry industry in South Dakota took flight a number of years ago, and contributes nearly $300 million dollars to the state’s economy.

“This wouldn’t have been possible without Dakota Provisions, and the growth that we’ve seen in this state,” said Bob Drake, President of the Board, South Dakota Poultry Industries Association. “We were hardly recognized as a turkey producer in this start before that, or in the country.”

South Dakota raises an average of 5 million turkeys a year, most of the birds are raised on 50 different Hutterite colonies throughout the state.

But for the birds in Riverside Colony, safe to say, they have it the best of all.

“When they go to Washington and finally meet the President, they’ll be staying in the finest hotels,” said Drake. “So they need to be pampered now, so they’ll be used to that when they get there later.”

The two turkeys will be selected this Fall, and a contest will be held to select their names.

President George H.W. Bush was the first to officially pardon a turkey from the National Turkey Federation, and every president since has followed suit.

Ruben Waldner, the man who raises the turkeys on the Riverside Colony, will also make the trip to deliver the turkey to President Trump.

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