By Nita Johnson
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — Every year during the last full weekend of September, the Sentinel-Echo question of the week has been “What is your favorite part of the Chicken Festival?”
The answers have varied over the years, now narrowed down to three categories for the online poll that marks the progress of technology from the personal pictures and answers that once graced each Wednesday edition of the newspaper.
The categories are usually entertainment, carnival rides, and food.
Aside from the ferris wheel which allows me to rise high above the crowd for an overview picture, I’m a bit too ‘mature’ for the major carnival rides, although it is always intriguing to try and get pictures of the kids and adults on the many offerings that transform Broad Street each late September.
Food is always a beloved facet of the annual celebration, with aromas of blooming onions, hamburgers, pizza, and funnel cakes blending delightfully together throughout downtown London.
The entertainment includes contests, a parade, and countless musical performances, from dance teams to gospel groups. One of my favorite contests is the Barnyard Games, formerly called the Redneck Games and Kentucky Olympics.
These contests will simply make you ‘crow’ with pleasure. In past years, I’ve watched contestants attempt to carve a chicken from a block of Spam, throw frozen chickens at water-filled 2 liter pop bottles in a simulated bowling contest, and create a structure from a piece of aluminum foil in a timed contest.
This year’s scheduled events included Watermelon/Pumpkin seed spitting, Spam eating contest; Toilet Lid Horseshoe, armpit serenade song recognition, burping contest, and timed corn shucking contest.
The parade always brings out thousands of people and participants — by far the largest and longest parade of the community. From beauty queens and marching bands to fire trucks and floats, the WCF parade brings out the community to ‘oh’ and ‘ah’ the festivities.
The favorite part of the World Chicken Festival for me is the music. As a music lover (I can play a mean stereo!), the Chicken Festival provides me with the outlet I crave. The speakers mounted on the power poles on Fifth Street lend perfect opportunity to hear the music played over the city’s sound system as the festival setup begins on Monday and Tuesday. The balcony that overlooks Broad Street provides the ideal spot to move to the groove during short breaks in the workday. The “one, two, one, two” testing of the Stage of Stars, located just across the Sentinel’s parking lot echoes during Thursday, but the remainder of the festival delivers the varied talents of those taking the stage while the newsroom windows give a bird’s eye view. It is so difficult to concentrate on writing news stories when the temptation to get up and dance — or sing along at the very least — is overwhelming.
But today, the streets are clean and clear of the festivities, again marking the efficiency and planning that goes into this annual event. It’s back to business as usual, but the memories and anticipation will remain until next year.