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Finger lickin' fun at chicken festival
Crowds came for the birds, stayed for the rest in Gainesville
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Perry Troutman and her grandmother Marion Dandy wear chicken hats Saturday made by students of mother-and-daughter Tracy Troutman, an art teacher at Fair Street Elementary School. Proceeds from the hats and scarves raise money for fifth-graders to go to Tybee Island and study coastal Georgia, Tracy Troutman said. - photo by NAT GURLEY

Chicken Cook-Off winners

Professional division

Grand Champion: Rick’s Smokin’ Pig BBQ

Wings

1st: Lazy Bear BBQ
2nd: Ninja Pig BBQ
3rd: Rick’s Smokin’ Pig BBQ
Specialty
1st: Rick’s Smokin’ Pig BBQ
2nd: Killer Que
3rd: Smokin’ Dave’s
Chicken
1st: Rick’s Smokin’ Pig BBQ
2nd: Ninja Pig BBQ
3rd: Smokin’ Dave’s
Showmanship
Lazy Bear BBQ

Backyard Division

Wings
1st: The Haitian Jerk
2nd: “Just Us” Wingin’ It
3rd: Walgreens
Specialty
1st: BBQ Hunters
2nd: Truelove’s “Cupig” BBQ
3rd: Gainesville Fire Department
Chicken
1st: Truelove’s “Cupig” BBQ
2nd: BBQ Hunters
3rd: Walgreens
People’s Choice: Gainesville Fire Department

Gainesville’s annual Spring Chicken Festival also has become a yearly ritual for the Hill family.

Karen Hill of Gainesville and her daughters, Virginia, 12, and Lily, 8, wouldn’t miss it, they said, licking their lips after nearly devouring plates of chicken.

They were especially pleased by this year’s event.

“There are more people cooking chicken (this year), so there’s more of it to eat and you don’t have to wait in line for very long,” Virginia said.

Warm temperatures, sunny skies and a slight breeze also boosted the festival as a large crowd jammed into the Gainesville square.

Keep Hall Beautiful organized the 10th annual event, which serves as a fundraiser for the nonprofit and Main Street Gainesville.

A 5-kilometer race sponsored by the Lanier Running Club preceded the festival, which was officially kicked off with the Chicken City Parade around the square.

The event also featured live entertainment, arts and crafts vendors, and a chicken cook-off, with this year’s festival featuring 14 teams that cooked more than 5,000 pounds of chicken for attendees. Judges had the enviable job of selecting winners.

In the end, Rick’s Smokin’ Pig BBQ was awarded as Grand Champion.

Dan Owen, Keep Hall Beautiful’s board president, said he was particularly thankful for the weather.

“Last year, we had rain right up to when (the event) started and the year before that, we had like a monsoon,” he said, estimating a couple thousand attendees had arrived by noon.

Main Street Manager Regina Mansfield said “the thing I love about the chicken festival is that the proceeds go back into our projects downtown.”

One highlight this year was Flo Becker, executive assistant for Mar-Jac Poultry, crowned as this year’s festival queen.

“She is quintessential to this festival,” Mansfield said. “She helps with the sponsorships and she’s kind of our liaison between the poultry industry, the city and this festival.”

Becker was surprised but pleased by the recognition.

“I had a tiara and banner. It was fun,” she said. “I rode around in a float and we did the chicken dance.”

The food part of the festival was mostly confined to the parking area off the square next to the downtown parking garage, while arts and crafts vendors filled in spaces inside the square around the Old Joe statue.

Perry Troutman was manning a booth benefiting Fair Street School in Gainesville that featured crafts made by students.

“We’ve had a lot of people come by and buy chicken hats,” made from recycled plastic, Troutman said.

Her grandmother, Marion Gandy of Flowery Branch, also was helping at the booth.

“It’s so nice they do this,” she said of the festival. “It brings people out and makes it more like a community.”