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Test your chicken skills in upcoming cook-off
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Stick a fork in that tender juicy chicken. It's done.

Wait! Don't! It's illegal.

At least according to local lore, it's actually against the law to eat fowl without getting greasy fingers in Gainesville, billed as the poultry capital of the world.

So bust out your bibs - starting Friday, the Fourth Annual Spring Chicken Festival will sweep the square with numerous events including a garden expo and plant sale to kick off the fowl festivities.

The chicken festival incorporates children's events later in the month with crafts, fluffy candy peep art, movies and a quilt and children's art show. But the festival gets fierce as world-class cyclers wheel through Gainesville in the Tour de Georgia on April 23 and 24.

A showdown takes place on April 26, when roughly 15 chicken cookers face off downtown on the square.

Spring Chicken Festival chairman Rick Foote said teams cooked more than 1,500 pounds of poultry last year, and served their dishes to judges and 1,000 festivalgoers.

The cook-off invites participants to compete in one or more of three categories: wings, whole chicken and special chicken dishes, such as chicken cordon bleu, chicken chili or chicken and dumplings.

"If you can make a dessert pie out of a chicken, have at it," Foote said.

Last year's grand prize winner, David Hirneisen, took home $500 in prize money for his wings concoction, which garnered him the festival cook-off's grand prize for the third year in a row.

Foote said anyone who can cook raw meat is invited to participate in the cook-off. A meeting will be held for all interested parties at 7 p.m. Friday at the Gainesville Human Resources Department on Henry Ward Way.

He warned chicken chefs to come armed with their best recipes. Hirneisen is entering the festival for the fourth time this year.

"His wings are kind of unusual; they're not hot wings or barbecue wings, they're sort of in between," Foote said. "You'll just have to try them for yourself."

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