A giant chicken made of steel received a VIP police escort into Gainesville Monday.
The structure will be hoisted on the roof of Main Street Market with heavy equipment starting around 9 a.m. Tuesday in time for Thursday’s traditional lighting of the chicken during the Jingle Mingle event downtown.
The big bird, weighing more than 1,100 pounds, was designed and put together by welding students at Lanier Technical College.
A crew from Carroll Daniel Construction transported it around noon on a flatbed trailer from the Oakwood campus to Main Street. Gainesville and Lanier Tech police escorted the trailer into Gainesville.
Main Street Gainesville Manager Kristen Howard said Jingle Mingle opens Gainesville’s holiday and shopping season downtown. Unlike the lighting of the tree at New York’s Rockefeller Center, the highlight of Jingle Mingle is the countdown leading to the lighting of the metal chicken.
Howard said the event that starts at 5 p.m. Thursday — and includes Santa arriving in a fire truck, free carriage and kiddie train rides and live music — would not have been the same had Lanier Tech welding students not created a new chicken on short notice.
When: 5-8 p.m. Thursday
Where: Gainesville square
How much: Free
Deb Harkrider, who owns the Main Street Market building with husband Doug, said the former giant chicken she built and painted was found to be unfit for another lighting after it was taken down in advance of approaching Tropical Storm Irma in September.
“He was old and rusted and falling apart,” Harkrider said. “That’s when we knew we needed to make a new chicken.”
Harkrider reached out to friends with ties to Lanier Tech, and together they hatched the idea to get the welding students involved.
“We thought this is a perfect thing,” Harkrider said. “The students get to do a fun project, be a part of the community and help us out. The kids had a big time and they are all going to be here for the lighting Thursday.”
Lanier Tech welding instructor Jay Maughon said 15 to 20 of his students had a hand in the project. He said it was a good learning experience for them.
Although the project was presented to them about two and a half weeks ago, Maughon said his students were up to the challenge.
Maughon said there’s a lot of “good steel” that went into the new giant chicken structure with a body that looks like a large rounded cage.
“I told them that if you look at it close enough, they can take the neck and the head off and use it like an Easter egg on Easter,” he said.
When all the pieces of the giant chicken are put together it’s about 20 feet tall, 12 feet wide at its widest point and 9 feet deep, Maughon added. He said the head alone weighs about 150 pounds.
“The kids had a good time with it, and it’s good to see students happy,” he said. “It’s a good holiday wish to all the people of Hall County.”
Harkrider said she first got the idea for the giant chicken while trying to come up with an iconic structure for downtown Gainesville.
“You know, downtown Atlanta they have the pink pig, and everybody has something special; We’re the poultry capital of the world. We need to do something and celebrate our chicken. And it would be fun with our Christmas,” she said.
Harkrider said the old chicken was up on the roof for at least 10 years.
“Every year we would put new lights on it, push it up, lay it back down,” Harkrider said.”We try to do more and more things to bring people back downtown.”