Chicken Festival to return this fall
SALISBURY, Md. — Whenever the Delmarva Chicken Festival comes up in conversation in public or on social media, questions about its return inevitably follow, Holly Porter said.
Last week, Porter, executive director of the Delmarva Chicken Association, had the answer they were looking for.
After an eight-year hiatus, DCA announced the Delmarva Chicken Festival will return on Oct. 7 from 1-7 p.m. at Arthur W. Perdue Stadium in Salisbury, in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the chicken industry and the 75th anniversary of the association.
“We are very excited to be announcing this today,” Porter said on March 13, overlooking Perdue Stadium.
The festival started in 1948 as the Chicken of Tomorrow Festival, and was centered around a breeding competition to develop a better bird for consumers. DCA, first named Delmarva Chicken Festival Inc. was established to support the event the same year.
After a 65-year run, the chicken association decided to end the festival in 2014 and shift to other ways to promote and advocate for the Delmarva poultry industry.
The event moved to a different town on the peninsula each year to spread its message.
“As our members started thinking about how to celebrate the chicken community’s 100th birthday, several chicken growers suggested bringing back the Delmarva Chicken Festival for a centennial celebration,” said Zach Evans, DCA’s 2023 board president. “We all recognized the warm welcome the festival would get, and we’re excited to invite everyone on Delmarva, and the many visitors to the region to join us for this year’s festival, in the region where the chicken industry was born.”
Historically, the Delmarva Chicken Festival featured parades, chicken cooking contests, and fried chicken prepared in the world’s largest fry pan, 10 feet in diameter.
The 2023 festival will pay homage to those traditions, but with a modern twist, focusing on local food, live music, and family-friendly attractions.
Attractions at the 2023 Delmarva Chicken Festival include local food trucks, vendors, historical and educational exhibits, children’s activities, and more.
Live music will be performed throughout the day by The Jones Boys, Jimmy Charles, and Mike Hines & The Look.
The Chicken Capers contests, which pit teams of employees from Delmarva’s five chicken companies against each other in field day-style games, are returning for the 2023 event.
“Anything you can think about relating to chicken, we’re going to be thinking about doing,” Porter said.
The festival’s famous 10-foot frying pan will not be returning, however.
The pan first debuted at the festival in 1950, a second was built in 1988 and now it rests on display in a local museum. Porter said they inquired about bringing it back out for the 2023 festival but the logistics in getting it just aren’t feasible.
In its place, Evans said they are working with a local non-profit to have a not-as-big, but still impressive frying pan set up for the festival.
A fireworks show will round out the event at 7 p.m.
Along with promoting chicken to the public, Dorchester County poultry grower Mary Lou Brown said the festival was a great way for the industry to come together, too.
“I remember so many great chicken festivals,” she said. “We had a great time. We got to see other farmers and you got to see other people in the industry.”
Though the festival had been held in Salisbury before, it had not been at Perdue Stadium, home of the minor league Delmarva Shorebirds baseball team. Porter said the stadium’s easiness to access and lots of space made it an ideal location.
“All of a sudden it just seemed to click. It was an easy yes to bring it here,” she said.
Evans said having it at the stadium named after one of the poultry industry’s pioneers is a nod to the role the industry plays in community and infrastructure.
The Greater Salisbury Committee, the Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce, and the Wicomico Farm Bureau are working in partnership with DCA to plan the event. All five chicken companies — Allen Harim Foods, Amick Farms, Mountaire Farms, Perdue Farms, and Tyson – are presenting sponsors of the 2023 festival.