Whitmer pardons first turkey, establishing new Michigan tradition

By: - November 22, 2022 5:56 am

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer hosts a turkey pardoning ceremony at the Governor’s Mansion in Lansing on Nov. 21, 2022. The 16-week-old turkey was named Mitch E. Gander after a contest to name it received more than 6,000 entries. (Andrew Roth/Michigan Advance)

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ceremonially pardoned a turkey Monday in what she hinted is likely to become an annual tradition for Michigan governors.

“The power of the pardon is an extraordinary one, one that I do not use lightly,” Whitmer said. “As a former prosecutor, we always do our due diligence before we use this.”

The turkey pardoned Monday was named Mitch E. Gander after a contest to choose its name received more than 6,000 submissions, Whitmer’s office said.

Runner-up names included Tahquamenon Tom, Turcules, Ryan Gobbling, Simon Fowl, Mack E. Gnaw and Steve Thighzerman.

Mitch E. Gander is just 16 weeks old and will live free range at the Mitten Misfits Farm Sanctuary, said Bob Worthy, who runs the nonprofit with his wife, Victoria Worthy.


“He’s like a dog out there,” Worthy said. “You come out, he comes running up to you. It’s the weirdest thing. The other birds are kind of standoffish, but he really interacts well with people.”

Worthy noted the fowl’s young age before sharing that the sanctuary recently lost a 40-year-old horse, which Worthy said exceeds the average life expectancy of 25 to 30 years, and lost a 16-year-old goat, which he said exceeds the life expectancy of six to 10 years.

“I think it’s like the fountain of youth for these guys,” Worthy said. “They come and they get a lot of loving people around them and they thrive. That’s what we want to do.”

It has become an annual tradition for the president to pardon a turkey at the White House ahead of Thanksgiving.

Whitmer said Monday’s pardoning ceremony is the first they’re aware of in state history, but noted that there are not extensive records documenting such events.

“I would not be surprised if we’re all here again next year,” Whitmer told reporters after the ceremony. “We’ve established a lot of new Michigan traditions. This is one of the most fun ones.”


Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Andrew Roth
Andrew Roth

Andrew Roth is a reporting intern with the Michigan Advance. He has been covering Michigan policy and politics for three years across a number of publications and studies journalism at Michigan State University.