Final Delmarva Chicken Festival Goes Out with a Bang

Near perfect weather, huge crowds, delicious chicken prepared in more than a dozen ways, hatching and baby chicks, musical entertainment, fun and games, and vendors with a variety of products and services combined to make the 2014 Delmarva Chicken Festival in Queen Anne's County, Maryland a tremendous success. Attendance far exceeded the organizers' expectations. From the opening ceremonies until the final entertainment on Saturday night, the focus was on Delmarva's chicken industry for the more than 30,000 people who attended the two-day event.

The event was sponsored by Delmarva Poultry Industry, Inc., the non-profit trade association working for the local chicken industry, and hosted by Queen Anne's County. This was the 65th and final Delmarva Chicken Festival. Many visitors said they were attending because it was the last festival. Hundreds of volunteers worked hard in the last year planning the event and making it happen on Friday, June 20 and Saturday, June 21. Members of the Queen Anne's County Farm Bureau were kept busy throughout the weekend preparing the chicken that was served to thousands of guests who stood in long lines to taste the delicious chicken cooked in the giant fry pan. Longtime observers could not recall the length and duration of the lines being any longer than this weekend. If fact, there was concern that there would not be enough chicken to meet the demand.

During opening ceremonies, DPI President Keith Moore welcomed visitors and explained why this was the final Delmarva Chicken Festival. He said the festival has been a well-received chicken industry promotion in eight decades, "but as times and industry challenges have changed, so must our ways of supporting our industry." Maryland Secretary of Agriculture Buddy Hance told the overflow crowd that there's a bright future for the poultry industry in the region and he said all grain farmers in the MidAtlantic area depend upon the chicken industry. He praised farmers for their environmental stewardship, not just now but for past generations.

As part of the opening ceremonies, persons who attended the first chicken festival in 1948 were recognized as well as some of the poultry princesses who reigned over the years.

The major attraction was the giant fry pan, operated at every Delmarva Chicken Festival since 1950. Propane gas supplied by the Mid Atlantic Propane Gas Association, seasoning supplied by The English Company, and a more healthful type of soybean oil, Plenish, supplied by Perdue Agribusiness and DuPont Pioneer, contributed to the success of the estimated five tons of mouthwatering Perdue fried chicken.

One of the most popular exhibits was coordinated and staffed by extension educators from the local land grant universities. Foremost among the attractions was the chick hatching and chick petting area. Additionally, a historic perspective of Delmarva's chicken industry from its early days in the 1920s until the second world war (available from the DPI office at $5.00 per disc), was well received.

Musical entertainment offered free of charge near the food court was an attraction for thousands of visitors throughout the two days. A classic car show, a working model railroad exhibit, children's activities, and much more provided a variety of ways for guests to enjoy their visit.

A popular attraction was the Mountaire Farms Chickin' Pickin' in which dozens of contestants in a timed competition picked meat from whole chickens with the winner being judged by how much meat was removed. Maryland State Senator Steve Hershey was the winner.

The festival was co-chaired by Dr. Faith Elliott-Rossing and Debbie Birch of the Queen Anne's County Department of Economic Development and Tourism and when it concluded at 8:00 p.m. on Saturday, June 21 they pronounced the festival a great success and a tremendous way to bring to an end a 65 year Delmarva Peninsula tradition.

For a variety of reasons, Delmarva Poultry Industry, Inc. no longer will host a Delmarva Chicken Festival. Various individuals and groups have expressed an interest in hosting their own chicken festivals in the years ahead. No decisions have been made on the future of the giant fry pans that have been in use since 1950. The original pan, used from 1950 to 1987 and housed at the Historical Society of Delaware in Wilmington and the 1988 replacement pan, will remain in storage while the leadership of Delmarva Poultry Industry, Inc. decides their fate and possible new homes. Persons interested in taking ownership of the newer pan, which still can be used, and the older pan that can be used just for display purposes, should submit their detailed requests, including how they will use the pans, to the Delmarva Poultry Industry, Inc. office via e-mail at dpi@dpichicken.com.

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