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The Bluegrass Cannonball Egg--Spress makes its way through the crowd on Main Street during the 19th annual World Chicken Festival, which ran Thursday through Sunday in London.

Though the rides and attractions weren’t scheduled to open until 5 p.m. Thursday, World Chicken Festival fever had gripped London as festival goers were browsing around before the clock struck noon.

Several chicken festival vendors marveled that the crowd seen the first night of the of the four-day event rivaled the Friday night crowds at past chicken festivals as a sea of people covered Main and Broad streets in downtown London. Large crowds already had returned to downtown London by mid-morning Friday.

Ken Harvey, executive director of the London-Laurel County Tourism Commission, which organizes the annual event now in its 19th year, said based on the initial attendance, the crowd for the event was expected to exceed 200,00s0 people.

With the exception of a faulty public address system, Harvey said everything has gone smoothly.

“Setup, start up, placement and the weather have been fantastic,” Harvey said.

Thursday began with a visit from the ride inspectors to ensure the safety of the 36 rides. Harvey said the inspectors told him the set-up at the chicken festival is one of the best they have seen.

“We’ve had two lost kids,” Harvey said when asked about incident requiring police assistance.

Music was the theme of Thursday night as Her and Kings County opened for Jack Ingram on the main stage.

Harvey said people began finding seats to hear Ingram about 10 a.m for a concert was scheduled to begin about 9 p.m.

Though Ingram packed in the crowd, Harvey raved about Her and Kings County, who warmed up the audience with their southern rock and country set list.

“They put on a heck of a show,” Harvey said.

“I’m just on cloud nine,” he said.

At Sanders Court, Mix 96 radio hosted the karaoke contest, where 25 people belted it in hopes of winning a recording session, a trip to Florida and what Brett Fox of Mix 96 described as, “a big trophy with a chicken on it.”

The only limits to what the contestants could choose to sing was what was in the karaoke book the radio station had. While Taylor Swift, Toby Keith, and Martina McBride were popular choices, some contestants reached deep into the music vault.

Lenora Root went back to 70 Rock with Meatloaf’s “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad.”

The stay-at-home mom said she had been encouraged to enter by her sons, who regularly hear her singing while she soaks in the bathtub.

“They said ‘Go on mom, you can do it,’” Root said. “They are my little inspirations.”

Logan Hurley pulled out some solid country gold as he sang “Good Hearted Woman,” which was released by Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson in 1972.

Hurley said he chose the song because Waylon and Willie represent those small-town values he has been instilled with while growing up in London.

“I just love singing,” Hurley said.

When the singing stopped, Amanda Rose, who did her rendition of Sugarland’s “Something More,” took home first place.

On Friday morning, Laurel County kids got a hard lesson in gravity as they participated in the always-riveting egg drop contest, sponsored by Cumberland Valley National Bank and London Rotary Club.

This year, 113 kids participated, with eggs cradled in everything from foam to cotton balls thrown from the London Fire Department’s 40-foot tall aerial truck. All told, 77 eggs survived intact. The winners shared a $1,000 pot of prize money, resulting in each successful inventor walking away with $13 in their pocket.

Winners for the most creative egg protectors were Joshua Younger for his Chicken Little-style cradle; Steven Frye for his chicken leg-shaped shelter; and Trevor North, who invented a shield styled after an iPod. Younger, Frye and North were each awarded $25 for their efforts.

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