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Crowds flock to Spring Chicken Festival for samples, local art, parade
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The McKay family gets their first chicken samples of the day from the Tuff Dawg Grillers booth Saturday during the 12th annual Spring Chicken Festival in downtown Gainesville. - photo by Erin O. Smith

Gainesville again showed why it’s called “poultry capital of the world” Saturday at the 12th annual Spring Chicken Festival.

The event brought together chicken lovers to not only taste the best recipes Georgia has to offer but also to check out local art and other sponsors.

“It’s a full day of fun,” said Regina Mansfield, Main Street Gainesville manager.

The festival’s profits go toward both the Main Street Gainesville and Keep Hall Beautiful organizations, which help with community projects and cleaning up Hall County. Mansfield and Kelly Norman, director of Keep Hall Beautiful, organized the event.

“It helps out our small businesses with grants,” Mansfield said. “It’s also just a fun festival.”

For $5, each person could go to any of the booths and sample the food with a “cluck card.” Every card has 10 spaces punched once its holder tried a sample.

“You can easily feed a family of four for $20,” Mansfield said.

The Wright family came from Flowery Branch to try out the samples.

“It’s just something to do,” Mark Wright said. He owns Wright Creations, a garment printing business located in Gainesville, and runs it with his wife Lisa Wright. “We’ve never been before.”

Some people, like Ricky Rich and Sheri Rich, have come to the festival almost every year since its inception. As a result, they know which booths are new and which are old favorites.

“I try to go to the newer ones, or the independents,” Sheri said, standing in line for the Truelove BBQ’s booth. “I love that it’s growing year after year.”

“It’s a great community event,” Ricky said. “The eating’s good, too.”

The duo came as a team to tackle the plentiful booths’ offerings together. Their favorites were the Bourbon Kiss booth and the Gainesville Fire Department’s stand.

Dan Yarck, a retired Hall County Fire staff member, has also been coming since the first year.

“(I come to) sample the food and enjoy the people,” Yarck said. He was with his daughter, Tara Quatro, and his granddaughter, Olivia Quatro.

Tracy Troutman brought along some of her students. She’s an art teacher at Fair Street School, and celebrated the event by wearing a fluffy white chicken hat.

“It’s an old hat,” she said, bought 20 years ago when she and her husband were in New York for the Macy’s Day Parade. When she bought the hat, it was so they could find each other if they got lost in the crowd.

Now, 20 years later, she still stuck out from the crowd and her students could easily find her in the groups of people.

She brought along a group of fifth-graders who entered a float in the festival’s parade, showing off the school’s Reading Bowl members. The float itself read: “Why did the chicken cross the road?” with “To get to the books!” on the opposite side.

They were most impressed with Truelove BBQ’s stand, and used the last punches on their cards to eat the paradise-flavored wings again.

Once the event was over, awards were given out to booths with the Best Chicken, the People’s Choice award and a Showmanship award.

The Mojo Voodoo BBQ booth was decorated like a pirate ship, complete with a man dressed up as a pirate, and all of the workers had skull makeup painted on. They came all the way from Greenville, S.C. for this year’s chicken festival.

Other vendors included Lazy Bear BBQ, Chipotle Bros., Ninja Pig, Smokin’ Butts, Taters, Georgia Mountain BBQ, Mule Camp Tavern and High on ‘Cue, among others.