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 2012 Delmarva Chicken Festival in Salisbury, Maryland a tremendous success.
From the opening ceremonies during which members of Congress and the secretaries of agriculture for Maryland and Delaware stressed the economic and community importance of the chicken industry until the final entertainment on Saturday night, the focus was on Delmarva’s chicken industry.
Sponsored by Delmarva Poultry Industry, Inc., the non-profit trade association working for the local chicken industry, and hosted by the Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce, this year festival attracted more than 30,000 persons. This was the 14th time that the festival was held in Salisbury. Hundreds of volunteers worked hard in the last year planning the event and making it happen on Friday, June 15 and Saturday, June 16. Community groups like the Salisbury Lions Club that cooked the fried chicken in the festival’s world renowned 10-foot diameter pan, the Salisbury Jaycees that prepared the barbeque chicken, the Rotary Club of Salisbury that served beverages, and the Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce raised money to support their many charitable activities. No income is earned by Delmarva Poultry Industry, Inc. for its role in the festival. It is the trade association’s largest promotional event and one of the America’s oldest food festivals, having started in 1948.
During opening ceremonies, DPI President Andrew McLean welcomed visitors and credited the tens of thousands of persons “who make it happen” in the chicken industry. Delaware U.S. Senator Tom Carper stressed the importance of exports to keep Delmarva’s and America’s chicken industry strong and spoke about his amendment to the federal Farm Bill that is intended to increase U.S. Department of Agriculture research on improving poultry feed efficiency.
Maryland Congressman Andy Harris said “we need to get on our knees every morning to thank God for the poultry industry.” He said if the poultry industry goes from the 1st Congressional district, the whole economy of the district would go also. He stressed the need to fight government over-regulation. Maryland Secretary of Agriculture Buddy Hance told the hundreds of people at the opening ceremony that poultry is the foundation of agriculture throughout Maryland, not just on the Eastern Shore. He said this region has the best growers who grow the best quality chickens in the United States. Job creation and the tremendous economic activity generated by the chicken industry was the theme of Delaware Secretary of Agriculture Ed Kee. According to Secretary Kee, the best environmentalists are the farmers and the people in the poultry industry. Salisbury Mayor Jim Ireton acknowledged the importance of the chicken industry to his city, the largest on the Delmarva Peninsula, and he pledged to help the chicken industry stay here. He closed by encouraging people to Eat Chicken Tonight.
Before the official ribbon cutting featuring dozens of community, business, chicken industry, and political leaders, a chicken dance was held with participation from students at Camp Odyssey at the Salisbury School and some visiting birds, including Sherman the Shorebird, mascot for the Salisbury minor league baseball team; the University of Maryland Eastern Shore hawk mascot; the Salisbury University seagull mascot; and Daisy the Duck with the Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art.
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 McCormicks, and a new, healthier type of soybean oil, Plenish, supplied by Pioneer, contributed to the success of the tons of Mountaire Farms, Inc. fried chicken enjoyed by festival visitors.
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 the chicken industry in the Salisbury area (available from the DPI office at $7.50 per disc), was well received.
DPI’s Allied Industry Committee operated the Chicken Capers games for children on Saturday afternoon.
Musical entertainment offered free of charge near the food court was an attraction for thousands of visitors throughout the two days.
After more than a year of planning, festival co-chairs James McNaughton and Robbie Tarpley Raffish from the Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce agreed that their committee’s work resulted in an extremely successful event that accomplished its goal of highlighting the importance of the chicken industry.