Smoke floated above the downtown Gainesville square on Saturday, April 28, when the city once again showed why it’s earned its poultry capital of the world nickname.
The 2018 Spring Chicken Festival was going strong as hundreds of visitors flocked to the square to taste 10 or more different chicken recipes prepared by competitive cooks, restaurants and businesses alike. Each team was competing for the top prize of $1,000 while cooking up at least 200 pounds of chicken for the hungry guests that visited their tent.
Ron and Pat Beever were at the festival for their first time, waiting in line to add some more chicken to their plates. They live on the lake in Gainesville, but are originally from Michigan.
“Chicken,” Pat Beever said. “Everybody likes chicken. What a great thing to have here.”
Their son, Terry Beever was in town visiting from Utah with his wife, Emily, and son, Sonny, 2. They decided instead of going to Stone Mountain, they’d stay close by and check out what the festival had to offer.
Pat Beever said her grandson is a picky eater and had never tried a chicken wing before. The family wasn’t sure if he’d like the flavor, but they found some for him to try anyway.
“He hasn’t really eaten much chicken before,” Terry Beever said. “But he’s sucking it down. It’s awesome.”
Their favorites came from the Wrenched Bicycles and Walgreens tents.
Some others in the competition were the Gainesville Fire Department, Chipotle Brothers by Budget Blinds, Smokin Butts, Ninja Pig and Haitian Jerk among many others.
Monica and Walter Ash waited in one of the long lines with the hundreds of others at the festival and couldn’t choose just one favorite. They live in Flowery Branch and decided to stop by for their first time, too.
“I know we bought too many tickets,” Walter Ash said. “We definitely overspent. We bought the $25 deal.”
He said it was way more than they could eat, but they were happy they could get their fill of some quality, home-cooked chicken.
There was even some royalty at this year’s festival. Miss Lake Lanier, Shannon Murphy, and Miss Lake Lanier’s Outstanding Teen, Tressie Polk, were both there, in sash and crown, waiting in line for chicken like everyone else.
Polk is a seasoned veteran when it comes to the chicken festival. She said she’s been five or six times, so she was able to show Murphy, who was there for her first time, the ropes.
“It’s awesome,” Polk, 13, said. “I love it. It’s one of my favorite parts of the year.”
They were both at the festival trying to raise money, too, not just to fill up on chicken. The Miss Lake Lanier pageant is a preliminary competition that leads to the Miss Georgia pageant, which then leads to the Miss America pageant.
“We’re here all day, actually, face painting and taking donations to raise money for our Miss America philanthropy which is Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals,” Murphy, 21, said. “All the money we raise is allocated to hospitals right here in Georgia, so that’s what we’re doing. And also enjoying the chicken.”
They said their favorite was the funnel cake chicken.
“It has defied all expectations I had for it,” Murphy said. “I was honestly expecting it to be in some kind of field. I wore my boots to prepare for it. But it’s a lot of fun. The music is great and the people have been nice, and the food is really good.”