MONTGOMERY – Governor Bob Riley pardoned a Thanksgiving turkey on Friday as part of an annual tradition in Alabama that dates back to 1949.
The event, held at the Alabama Governor’s Mansion, marks the 60th time an Alabama governor has issued a pardon for a turkey - always named Clyde - provided by Bill Bates of Bates House of Turkey in Greenville.
In recent years, First Lady Patsy Riley has used the occasion to promote “Blankets with a Blessing,” her effort to collect blankets for the needy as winter nears. This is the sixth year the First Lady has led the project. Students from Dalraida Elementary School in Montgomery and Fort Dale Academy in Greenville joined Mrs. Riley at the event and brought blankets to donate to the less fortunate.
“This is a great tradition and I’m proud to be a part of the 60th annual event,” Governor Riley told the crowd. “Thanksgiving is a unique American holiday. It’s a time when we can pause and thank God for all the ways he blesses us. The beliefs we hold and the values we live by are what have made this state and this country so great for generations. Alabamians are such compassionate and generous people, and I’m proud to see those values carried on by the next generation as shown by the children here today donating blankets to the less fortunate this holiday season.”
Thousands of blankets have been distributed to the less fortunate at women’s shelters and homeless shelters throughout the state, Mrs. Riley said. Attached to each blanket is a piece of paper with a blessing and a Bible verse.
“The blankets are to provide warmth for their bodies, and the blessings are to provide warmth for their souls,” Mrs. Riley said. “The people of Alabama are always so ready to show their compassionate and caring spirit, and I’m truly grateful to every person who donates a blanket.”
The Governor’s pardon, which he read to the students, pardons Clyde for being convicted of “being a big, delicious looking turkey” and orders that “all barnyard rights” be restored. Clyde’s new home will be at the State Farmers Market in Montgomery until February, Bates said, where he can be visited by children. After that, Clyde will be returned to the farm.
Agriculture and Industries Commissioner Ron Sparks and Johnny Adams of the Alabama Poultry and Egg Association also spoke at the event.