NEWINGTON - While most other turkeys became Thanksgiving feasts, Stew Leonard Jr. and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn, saved one lucky bird from the typical holiday fate.
“Ed” will live out his remaining days on a Meriden farm after being granted an official pardon at Stew Leonard’s Newington store.
“This joyous occasion gives us the opportunity to be grateful and appreciative of all the blessings we enjoy throughout the year,” Blumenthal said as he crowned the animal with a green Stew Leonard’s key, symbolic of newfound freedom.
The gesture was modeled after America’s long-standing tradition of presidential turkey pardons, said to have begun with Abraham Lincoln. The first on official record was granted by President George H.W. Bush on Nov. 14, 1989.
“We’re extremely excited to have Senator Blumenthal here at Stew Leonard’s today,” said Stew Leonard Jr., president and CEO of the grocery chain, which has six locations in Connecticut and New York State.
The turkey was named after Ed Jabs, a baker in the Newington store. He wore a colorful turkey hat for the occasion.
“I’m a big turkey myself,” Jabs said with a laugh.
The bird came from a farm in Lancaster, Pennsylvania and spent the week before Thanksgiving in Newington.
“Don’t let anybody tell you nobody is moving to Connecticut,” Blumenthal joked. “Ed came to live here from Pennsylvania.”
Ahead of the pardoning ceremony, employees and customers enjoyed visiting with the turkey outside the entrance.
“It really raises everybody’s spirits,” graphic artist Joe Robison pointed out. “You get a chuckle walking by, hearing it gobble.”
Blumenthal praised the company for its charitable work, which also includes pool safety. The Stew Leonard III Water Safety Foundation has donated more than $3 million to provide swimming lessons to underprivileged children, including those in Newington.
“Stew and his family are longtime friends,” Blumenthal said. “He has done such wonderful things for Connecticut and the community.”
New Britain resident Chris Lopresti and his daughters Juliana, 11, and Sophia, 8, came to see the turkey pardoned.
“We live close by, we have today off and we thought this would be something fun to do,” Lopresti said.
“It’s cute,” Juliana added. “It’s one of the quietest turkeys I’ve ever heard.”
About 88 percent of Americans ate turkey over the holiday weekend, according to the National Turkey Federation. That equates to 45 million turkeys.
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at 860-801-5097 or firstname.lastname@example.org.