The voting was heavy and two businesses battled it out until the very last minute to claim the title of this year's Chicken Invasion.

But the voting ended with a tie for first place, with Thompson Drug South and I'm So Fancy each wanting to claim the traveling trophy for the coming year. The event was settled with a dual award - the two businesses not only tied for first-place in the fundraising effort, they also both tied for the medium size chicken entry.

The Chicken Invasion is an annual installment of the World Chicken Festival with the money generated from the votes going to fund the Backpack Program of Laurel County. This is the first time the funds from the Chicken Invasion have been donated to the Backpack Club - but it is an effort that Backpack Program Coordinator Jennifer Hawkins hopes will continue.

"We definitely want to thank Kelly Burton and the World Chicken Festival committee for allowing us to get the proceeds from the Chicken Invasion," she said. "We also want to thank all the businesses and schools for entering a chicken in the contest and all the businesses, schools and individuals for taking part in the voting. We hope to make this a tradition for years to come."

Hawkins praised the entries this year on their lavish and creative designs.

"All the chickens entered this year were very creative," she said. "Everyone went above and beyond. This was a fun project. It was good for the businesses and the schools."

Backpack Club board member Travis Cupp said there were 47 chickens entered into the contest this year.

Hawkins said over $7,800 was raised for the Backpack Program while volunteers with the Backpack Program manned the voting area of the Chicken Invasion during the World Chicken Festival with the voting continuing until the festival closed on Sunday afternoon. The money collected from that effort will provide weekend snacks for hundreds of Laurel County children who may be food deficient.

"(The money generated) will last for a little over nine weeks," she said. "We provide snacks of non-perishable foods and some fruit at least two weeks a month."

"There are consistent donors - churches and businesses who constantly support us," she explained. "When you partner with a good cause, the participation increases. We're lucky to have that."

The Backpack Program works with Family Resource and Youth Service centers in the county to supply snacks to students who may lack proper nutrition over the weekend. Volunteers come in every other Tuesday to fill the bags.

Both Hawkins and Cupp said volunteers are always needed to help with assembling the food bags.

"We encourage churches, school groups and clubs to volunteer," Cupp said. "We pack two weeks at a time. We have two lines going. The bags are distributed every Friday at the schools."

This month's assembly will be on Tuesday, Oct. 8 and Oct. 22 at God's Pantry on East Fourth Street. Anyone wishing to volunteer can check God's Pantry Facebook or web page for more details.

Hawkins added that the organization always welcomes donations and volunteers to assist with the food supplement program. Monetary donations are especially welcomed as those donations are used to help purchase bulk food items at a lower cost. Donations may be mailed to: Backpack Program of Laurel County, P. O. Box 162, Pittsburg, KY 40755.

njohnson@sentinel-echo.com

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