|Pig gets place at the table in first-Thanksgiving tale |
|By SONJA BARISIC |
Associated Press Writer
NORFOLK, Va. (AP) — A Virginia children’s author looking to correct Colonial history and raise money to feed the needy is petitioning the president to pardon a pig this Thanksgiving.
Lisa Suhay wants to add pork to the White House Rose Garden turkey pardon because English settlers held a thanksgiving service in Virginia on Dec. 4, 1619 — slightly more than a year before the Pilgrims landed in Massachusetts, and almost two years before the Pilgrims’ feast that came to be considered the first Thanksgiving.
Suhay tells the story of the Virginia thanksgiving in “Pardon Me. It’s Ham, Not Turkey,” to be released nationally this month by Bumble Bee Productions of Chesapeake.
In the book, illustrated by Pam Barcita, a boy starts a petition for a presidential pig pardon, reasoning that “Virginia’s known for presidents, peanuts, mountains and shores — but even more for its fine ham, which everyone adores.”
Suhay also has started a real pig pardon petition, and so far her effort has more than 4,000 signatures at www.pigpardon.com. The Web site also is collecting donations for the “Pig Pardon ’07” campaign, with all money going to the nonprofit Federation of Virginia Food Banks.
Several politicians have rallied to the cause.
U.S. Sen. John Warner, R.Va., sent a letter to the White House on the campaign’s behalf asking President Bush to consider the pardon, and the office of U.S. Rep. Thelma Drake, R.-Va., has called the White House about it, Suhay said.
Suhay herself has been in touch with the White House scheduling office and is hopeful the pardon will come through.
“I have seen more things that people thought were impossible happen in this administration,” she said. “I really think getting a pig pardoned is small sweet potatoes.”
Suhay was raised in New Jersey and New York and, like many Yankees, hadn’t known about Virginia’s thanksgiving. Then she moved to Norfolk four years ago, and her sons came home from school with what she was certain was bad holiday information.
So Suhay did some rooting around. What she found surprised her and led her to write her eighth children’s book.
In 1619, Capt. John Woodlief led his crew of 37 men from their ship to what is now Berkeley Plantation, along the James River between Richmond and Williamsburg.
When they arrived, the colonists fell to their knees and read a proclamation stating that the day of the ship’s arrival should be “yearly and perpetually kept holy as a day of thanksgiving to Almighty God.” The service may have included a meager meal with bacon or ham.
The Berkeley thanksgiving is the first recorded thanksgiving, and earlier settlers also probably held similar services, said Kevin Kelly, a Colonial Williamsburg historian and a visiting associate professor at the College of William and Mary.
“We’re talking about a time period when thanksgivings were simply something you did, as part of the Christian rituals,” Kelly said.
During the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln declared the fourth Thursday in November to be a national holiday.
With the South losing the war, the New England Thanksgiving tradition prevailed, although President John F. Kennedy did acknowledge Virginia in his 1963 Thanksgiving Day Proclamation. It began: “Over three centuries ago, our forefathers in Virginia and in Massachusetts, far from home in a lonely wilderness, set aside a time of thanksgiving.”
Today, even many people born in the area don’t know about the Virginia thanksgiving, said Peggy DeBellis Bruce, president of Virginia Thanksgiving Festival Inc., which organizes a yearly festival at Berkeley Plantation.
“Somehow, our little religious observance … just got lost in time,” Bruce said.
Suhay aims to change that.
“I really wanted to do something that would be simple and fun and lighthearted and not attacking anybody else’s history,” she said.
The actual pig to be pardoned is Ginny (short for “Virginia”), a 4-month-old white pig with black spots from Kidwell Farm at Frying Pan Farm Park, the agriculture history site in Fairfax County, where presidentially pardoned turkeys used to go to live.
For now, Ginny is staying at her campaign headquarters at The Virginia Zoo in Norfolk, where she is being housed with her sister, Jenny. Both pigs grunted and oinked loudly on a recent day when Suhay stepped into their pen to feed and scratch them.
In case the White House pardon doesn’t come through, Suhay also has appealed to state and local authorities.
Gov. Tim Kaine, alas, will not be stepping in to offer a pig pardon.
“The governor does not actually have the authority to pardon an animal,” Kaine spokeswoman Delacey Skinner said. “The best we could do is restore her good name.”
However, Virginia Beach Mayor Meyera Oberndorf has agreed to pardon Ginny during a ceremony Nov. 2 at the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center because it’s for a good cause, said the mayor’s spokesman, Drew Lankford.
Suhay emphasized that she is not asking the president to sacrifice a turkey so Ginny can be pardoned.
“We just want equal time,” she said.
No matter what happens, Ginny eventually will head back to Kidwell Farm, said park manager Todd Brown. There, she’ll become part of the breeding herd and likely have her first litter next July.
On the Net:
Pig Pardon petition: http://www.pigpardon.com
Berkeley Plantation: http://www.berkeleyplantation.com/
Kidwell Farm: http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/fpp
Published in The Messenger on 10.16.07