If you smelled barbecue, cajun or other flavors coming from the Gainesville Square as you passed by Saturday, and you didn’t stop by to see why, then you missed the ninth annual Spring Chicken Festival.
The festival attracted fans from around North Georgia, and cooler temperatures and potential rain didn’t dampen the chicken fans’ spirits. Nor did it stop the grill masters from cooking many different flavors of chicken visitors were treated to.
“(The festival) has grown for one thing,” said Kelly Norman, Keep Hall Beautiful executive director and organizer for the festival. “We’ve had a lot of new components. This was the third year for having the Chicken City parade. That continues to grow and become a staple here in the community.
“We celebrate families here. It’s Hall County and we’re all about families. Obviously, everyone enjoys the chicken and getting to taste all the chicken, but we have a kids’ zone. We have an entertainment stage. We have giveaways and goodies and different activities all throughout the day to keep everybody in the family entertained.”
Fans who attended enjoyed a parade; a rehatched and recycled art show, its first year with the festival; live entertainment and, of course, lots of chicken.
LeAnne Nicholson, along with her father Herman Nicholson, brought their business, Dad Daughter Designs, and their vintage silverware from the late 1800s to the 1960s. Their designs were part of the arts exhibit.
“The organizers saw us at a festival last year,” LeAnne Nicholson said. “They saw our (designs) and they liked our (designs), and they invited us to join the chicken festival.”
Jack and Jeannie Anderson of Buford attended the festival after family and friends invited them.
“This is my first time (at the festival),” Jeannie said. “I actually love it — all of it. Our friends invited us to it, and they’ve been here a lot. ... We got here and everybody’s been nice. Then, we got our plates, and the chicken has been good.
“I’d love to get the recipes for some of the chicken,” she said as she tried some of the different flavors. “It’s perfect. I’ll definitely be coming back. For only $5, you can’t beat it.”
Jack said he had a great time as well, but he didn’t realize how big the event was, and was impressed with how many people attended.
Chuck and Debbie Bridwell have been residents of Gainesville for approximately three years and have attended the festival every year.
“This is our three-year running tradition,” Chuck said. “Even if it’s cold outside, it’s our family tradition.”
The Bridwells brought their granddaughter, 4-year-old Jessie Howes, to the festival. Howes danced as she watched the parade march by their viewing position.
Also attending the festival were brothers Scott and Steven McIntyre, who came from Jackson County to check out the festival and didn’t leave disappointed — or with an empty stomach.
“So far, I think it’s good,” Steven said. “I think it’s been good trying all the chicken and different flavors (of chicken).”
Among the vendors dishing up the delicacies was the Gainesville Fire Department.
However, the festival was close to not happening this year, according to city Councilman George Wangemann and Regina Mansfield, manager of Main Street Gainesville who organized the event along with Norman.
Wangemann said a partnership was formed between Keep Hall Beautiful and the city, particularly Main Street Gainesville, that saved the festival.
Mansfield agreed and also said the arts section of the festival was born out of the partnership and collaborative effort with Keep Hall Beautiful.
“(Rehatched) arts is brand new,” Mansfield said. “When we were talking about partnering and the problem that Keep Hall Beautiful kept addressing was that you didn’t really know what the festival was (about), that it was Keep Hall Beautiful. You didn’t see the presence. So I wanted to bring elements that brought the mission of Keep Hall Beautiful and of course, recycling.
“... The first thing I thought of was ‘let’s do something where we have artists with recycling things.’ We have enough artists’ interest in this type of art to have this activity on its own. We’ll probably do this again. But I think (the festival) has been great. Not only does (art) add to the festival, but it also helps raise money for the fundraising event for Keep Hall Beautiful.”
Mansfield also said she enjoyed her working relationship with Norman.
“It’s definitely a job in itself,” Mansfield said about organizing the festival.
The Lanier Running Club also held a 5K run before the festival.