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Thanksgiving Pardon: Pres. Obama Grants Gobblers Stay of Execution

President Barack Obama pardons "Apple" in the White House Rose Garden (AP Photo/Susan Walsh) Walsh/AP
WASHINGTON (CBS/AP) Barack Obama performed an annual rite of presidents on Wednesday, pardoning a pair of turkeys on Thanksgiving eve and cracking jokes about the competition that brought them to his famous doorstep.

Apple and Cider, two 21-week-old, 45-pound turkeys raised on a farm outside Modesto, Calif., were plucked from a group of 25 birds during a competition "that involved strutting their stuff before a panel of judges, with an eclectic mix of music playing in the background," Obama said.

He called it a "turkey version" of "Dancing with the Stars," which crowned its newest winner Tuesday night.

"Except the stakes for the contestants was much higher," Obama said, laughing. "Only one pair would survive and win the big prize. Life."

Afterward, the hot-to-trot turkeys were to be driven to the home of George Washington, the nation's first president, in nearby Mount Vernon, Va. For the past five years, the presidentially pardoned birds had been sent to Disneyland in California, upsetting animal rights activists.

"For the record, let me say that it feels pretty good to stop at least one shellacking this November," Obama said in the White House Rose Garden, where he was flanked by daughters Malia and Sasha. A "shellacking" - you may recall - is how Obama described the beating Democrats suffered in the mid-term elections earlier this month.

The White House tradition of turkey pardons is more than six decades old.

The National Turkey Federation says occasional pardons date to the time of President Abraham Lincoln. The modern tradition began in 1947, when President Harry S. Truman accepted a Thanksgiving bird from the organization.