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Celebrate the glorious chicken at weekend festival
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Spring Chicken Festival and Chicken City Cook-off
What: Chicken cook-off, plus sweet tea competition, live music and family activities to benefit Keep Hall Beautiful
When: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday
Where: Chicken cook-off is at Roosevelt Square, children's activities on the downtown Gainesville square
How much: $8 for a wristband for chicken tastings; other events free

It's only right that the chicken capital of the world honor its fine feathered friends with a celebration.

Granted, the guests of honor might object to their basting, barbecuing and broiling, but hey, it's all for a good cause.

On Saturday, the fifth annual Spring Chicken Festival celebrates the beloved chicken with a cook-off, a sweet tea tasting and activities and live music for the whole family.

This year the main event, which has amateur and professional chefs preparing their tastiest homage to chicken, will be from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Roosevelt Square, next to the courthouse annex building in Gainesville. There are 18 teams registered for the event, which is a record number, according to organizer Cindy Reed.

Teams are essential, she added, because there's so much to be done in a small amount of time.

"You have to have a whole lot, because you have one person prepping, one person cooking, one person offering up the samples," said Reed, who is also executive director of Keep Hall Beautiful, which benefits from the event's proceeds. "That's a lot of chicken to cook."

The cooks have 12 different types of chicken parts they can choose from, and all of the chicken is provided by Mar-Jac. Home cooks are required to cook at least 40 pounds of chicken and professionals are required to cook 80, but she said last year both groups tipped the scales with more than 100 pounds cooked by each team.

And if you think you have a winning chicken recipe, better work on it for next year - at this point, registration for the cook-off is closed and chicken orders have been made.

Rick Foote, natural resources coordinator for Hall County and organizer of the Spring Chicken Festival, said there was a new category added to the cooking competition this year: The showmanship award.

"Showmanship has to do with how they present themselves, the amount of hospitality they show to festivalgoers," he said. "We know there's two teams in particular who are going all out for this. But it's going to be pretty interesting to see what they have planned."

One cook has a special grill he's been working on for 30 hours a week for the past six months. Foote said it's in the shape of a University of Georgia bulldog.

There will also be a sweet tea competition open to both professional chefs and amateurs. People can bring their tea to the festivities on Saturday to be judged. Children's activities include an interactive art area provided by Interactive Neighborhood for Kids, and there will also be a train, games and a magician provided by downtown Gainesville merchants.

Keep Hall Beautiful puts all money raised from Saturday's event into its tree replacement fund, Reed said, which has helped plant trees for nine different projects around the county in its two-year existence.

"We take all of the proceeds and it goes into a fund that we can offer grants to nonprofit groups, schools, parks for playgrounds, where they submit an application to us and say we want to put in these trees, and we give them money to put in trees."

Regional events