I’ve seen Ken Harvey in better moods. Harvey, the amiable and usually unflappable executive director of London-Laurel County Tourist Commission, was parked near Sander’s Court on Main Street in his big, black Blazer. It was about 11 a.m. Saturday morning, and the rain that started Friday afternoon had picked up again from a steady drizzle to a psuedo-downpour.

World Chicken Festival 2009 — the 20th anniversary edition — was a veritable MacArthur Park, melting in a cold, Kentucky rain.

Needing information on the parade, I approached the vehicle and rapped on the window. Ken didn’t respond immediately.

I could tell he was talking on his cell phone Bluetooth, so I waited a minute, with the rain getting heavier by the minute.

I rapped again. Ken lowered the window and ended the call. I could tell he didn’t recognize me, and in his defense, I did have my face squashed down under my St. Louis Cardinals hat (yes, the team that, later Saturday afternoon, clinched yet another National League Central Division title).

“Hey Ken, what’s happening,” I asked, with mock enthusiasm.

“It’s raining,” he deadpanned.

I think about that time, he recognized me — more from my voice than my drowned-rat appearance. His hand came out the window for that firm, friendly shake we all know from Ken.

As I ventured back up Main Street after getting the information I needed, I could tell Ken had gone right back to working his cell phone. By the time I got back to The Sentinel-Echo, I was drenched. But all along the way, I was amazed at how many people actually were milling around Main and Broad streets and the parking lots in between.

As everyone knows, WCF organizers work almost year-round to prepare for the event. No doubt, some plans are already in place for the 2010 festivities.

But festival organizers around the world know one hard, cold fact: You can’t control the weather.

This year’s World Chicken Festival had all the makings of a classic. Retired Maj. Gen. Donald Storm was back as parade grand marshal, and John Schneider and Tom Wopat — aka “The Dukes of Hazzard” — were signing autographs for fans at Sander’s Court.

But Thursday night, I checked the weather forecast. The Grinch who stole the chicken festival had concocted a mean-looking storm front and trained it to hover over London from the middle of the afternoon Friday right through Saturday.

Try as he might, the Grinch would not completely ruin the WCF. Despite his efforts, during the worst of the rain Saturday afternoon, the Laurel Countians down in London-ville were still having fun. Sure, they were still slopping around under umbrellas, or hovering under tent flaps — and they didn’t gather in a circle and sing. But there was an amazing number of people who refused to let the Grinch win.

Sunday morning, like it was decreed in Camelot, the morning fog gave way about 10 a.m., and church-goers were greeted by an unfamiliar site as they exited their pews — bright sunshine. When the first entrants in the rescheduled parade stepped off, the sun was baking Main Street and temperatures were well into the 70s.

Sure, vendor sales were off — probably way off. But World Chicken Festival happened — and was a happening — for the 20th straight year.

Nobody — not even Ken — is likely to call it “the best chicken fest ever.” But there still will be many great memories — and many memories made even more memorable because of the weather.

Congratulations to Ken and all the hard-working people who made another World Chicken Festival happen. And here’s hoping for better weather next year.

Contact Joseph Dill at

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