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Best of the birds chosen for D.C. trip

The turkeys for the annual presidential pardon at the White House have been chosen and are pictured with four of the five 4-H members who helped make the final selection. The 4-H girls, left to right, Katie Kent, Kayla Egenes, Christina Kuismi and Kodi Bundermann (Kerryn Lund is not pictured), will be traveling to Washington, D.C., this Sunday to take part in the pardoning events next week. (Celeste Edenloff / Echo Press) 1 / 2
This is one of the two turkeys that will be pardoned by President Donald Trump during the annual Thanksgiving presidential pardon. Two toms were selected and unofficially dubbed Bow and Tie. The official names will be chosen by President Trump, his family and White House staff. (Celeste Edenloff / Echo Press) 2 / 2

Tot and Tater. Cheese and Mac. Marshmallow and Yam. Biscuits and Gravy. Besides all being food items, what do these pairs of words have in common?

Hint: It has something to do with Thanksgiving but nothing to do with the meal that is traditionally served. The pairs of words, instead, are the official and alternate names that have been bestowed upon the national Thanksgiving turkey pardoned by the president of the United States in previous years.

This year's names have yet to be chosen, but the turkeys have.

The turkeys were raised by Carl and Sharlene Wittenburg of Alexandria. Carl is this year's chairman of the National Turkey Federation and was given the honor of raising the turkeys for the presidential pardon, which has been set for Tuesday, Nov. 21 on the White House lawn.

Carl and Sharlene started their flock with about 80 turkeys and have now narrowed it down to the final two. The Wittenburgs will be heading to Washington, D.C., this Saturday. The turkeys, which are traveling with their handler, also will fly out Saturday.

Over the course of the last six months, Carl and Sharlene have worked with five 4-H members from Douglas County to help raise the presidential turkeys — Kerryn Lund and Christina Kuismi, who attend school in Brandon-Evansville, and Kodi Bundermann, Kayla Egenes and Katie Kent, who attend Alexandria Area High School.

All five girls will also be traveling to the White House and will get to be a part of the turkey pardoning events.

A press conference with the Wittenburgs and the 4-H members will take place at 10 a.m. Monday, Nov. 20, and will be aired live on Facebook at The time for the actual pardoning has not been set but will also be live on the presidential turkey Facebook page.

Visit with the governor

A brother to the two chosen presidential turkeys will take part in the annual Thanksgiving ceremony with Governor Mark Dayton on Friday, Nov. 17 at 1 p.m. The turkey, along with 4-H member, Kent, will be at the ceremony at the State Capitol.

The turkey will not be pardoned, but will be processed and donated to a food shelf.

Also at the event, the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association will announce the donation of $11,000 worth of turkey products to Hunger Solutions of Minnesota, which distributes the products throughout different areas of Minnesota in December.

Narrowing it down

When the flock was finally narrowed down to seven, the five 4-H members picked their final two, but didn't share their decision with the Wittenburgs. Carl and Sharlene then chose their final two and shared their decision with the girls. And it just so happened they all picked the same two. Although Sharlene said there was another one she had her eye on.

The 5-month-old turkeys, both toms, weigh in at 36 pounds and 47 pounds and have been given unofficial names by the 4-H girls — Bow and Tie. The girls explained that Bow was named after a bowling ball because he is shorter and rounder, and Tie was the tall guy.

As for their official names, the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association held a naming contest and all submitted names were sent to the White House for consideration. The final decision for the official name and the alternate rest with President Donald Trump, his family and the White House staff.

After their presidential pardon, the two turkeys will join last year's pardoned turkeys — Tot and Tater — at Virginia Tech, according to the college's website. They will travel to Gobbler's Rest on Plantation Road in Blacksburg, Virginia.

In the article on the Virginia Tech website, Rami Dalloul, a poultry immunologist at the college said, "Tater and Tot are very excited to get some new neighbors."

Dalloul was at the White House last year to receive the birds.

The Virginia Tech Department of Animal and Poultry Sciences and the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine conduct research to benefit the poultry industry.

Try a recipe

Here is Carl and Sharlene Wittenburg's favorite turkey recipe:

Jalapeno Turkey Meatballs

1 lb. ground turkey

1 egg

⅓ cup chopped onions

¼ cup dry plain bread crumbs

2 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp minced garlic

1 tbsp red bell peppers, dried

½ tsp black pepper

1 jar jalapeno pepper jelly

1 tbsp butter

In a bowl, combine all the ingredients except jelly and butter. Shape into meatballs. Place on cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees until done (about 20 minutes, depending on size of meatball).

In a small sauce pan, melt the butter on low heat and then add the jelly. Stir until the jelly has turned to a liquid. Place meatballs in a slow cooker and pour the jelly mixture over them. Serve.

Presidential turkey names

(First name is official turkey, second is the alternate.)

2016: Tot and Tater

2015: Abe and Honest

2014: Cheese and Mac

2013: Popcorn and Caramel

2012: Gobbler and Cobbler

2011: Liberty and Peace

2010: Apple and Cider

2009: Courage and Carolina

2008: Pecan and Pumpkin (The alternate, Pumpkin, was pardoned during the official ceremony because Pecan became ill during the preceding night.)

2007: May and Flower

2006: Flyer and Fryer

2005: Marshmallow and Yam

2004: Biscuits and Gravy

2003: Stars and Stripes

2002: Katie and Zack (Katie and Zack were named after the Chairman of the National Turkey Federation Ron Prestage's children.)

2001: Liberty and Freedom

2000: Jerry

1999: Harry

Follow along

Here are the links to follow along the presidential turkey journey:

Twitter: @MinnesotaTurkey and @PrezTurkey

Instagram: @MinnesotaTurkey

SnapChat: MinnesotaTurkey

Official hashtag: #PresidentialTurkey

Celeste Edenloff

Celeste is a reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press and has lived in the Alexandria Lakes Area since 1997. She first worked for the Echo Press as a reporter from 1999 to 2011, and returned in June 2016 to report on the community she calls home. Besides writing articles for the Echo Press, she has a blog, “Newspaper Girl on the Run.” Celeste is on a continuous healthy living journey and loves to teach bootcamp fitness classes and run. She has participated in more than 200 races with her husband, Al, covering the 5K, 10K, 10-mile and half-marathon (13.1 mile) distances.

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