MONTGOMERY - A traditional Thanksgiving guest came to the Governor's Mansion on Wednesday. Clyde the Turkey was greeted by Governor Bob Riley, First Lady Patsy Riley and about 80 school children and pardoned by the Governor for the crime of being a "big, delicious looking turkey in November."
Since 1948, Bill Bates of Bates Turkey Farm in Greenville and the Alabama Poultry and Egg Association have presented a turkey to every Alabama governor for pardoning. In recent years, Mrs. Riley has added to the tradition by using the occasion to promote a cause: collecting blankets for the needy as winter approaches. This is the fourth year the First Lady has led the "Blankets with a Blessing" project for the less fortunate.
"This is a great tradition," Governor Riley told the crowd. "Thanksgiving is a unique American holiday, a time when we can pause and thank God for all the ways he blesses this country and each one of us as individuals. We also need to pause and thank all the men and women who are serving all over this world to protect the freedom we have today."
Students from Southminster Day School in Birmingham, Cary Woods Elementary in Auburn and Riverchase United Methodist Day School in Birmingham attended the turkey pardoning, sang songs and presented blankets to the First Lady.
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.
"We've got a lot to be thankful for," Mrs. Riley said. "Aren't we thankful for all of those who have gone before us to give us the great nation we have and that we're free to have Thanksgiving?" she asked the students.