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Rain cant ruffle feathers at Spring Chicken Festival
Thousands flock to downtown Gainesville for fun, flavors of annual event
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Mike and Donna Cyr look Saturday at hand-painted lighted wine bottles by Joan McDonald out of Flowery Branch at Re-Hatched upcycled art market during the annual Spring Chicken Festival in downtown Gainesville. Items sold at Re-Hatched were made from recycled or repurposed materials. - photo by Erin O. Smith

A little rain may stop a parade, but it won’t keep Gainesville residents from their chicken.

The 11th annual Spring Chicken Festival was held Saturday in downtown Gainesville, and despite a little rain in the morning, the event was quite a success.

“It’s one of those happy accidents,” said Kelly Norman, Keep Hall Beautiful executive director. “Unfortunately the parade wasn’t able to go on, but we moved all our vendor spaces into the parking deck, thanks to the city of Gainesville, who have been so cooperative. It’s been a great turnout and we actually love using the parking deck.”

The event is the primary fundraiser for Keep Hall Beautiful and is organized in collaboration with Main Street Gainesville and the city of Gainesville.

It included a barbecue chicken cookoff, held under tents in the downtown parking lot adjacent to the square. In the nearby parking deck, the “ReHatched” art market offered art pieces for sale made of 80 percent recycled, repurposed or reclaimed materials.

Items sold included handmade wind chimes, refurbished furniture, handmade jewelry and outdoor children’s play toys, including a see-saw made from recycled wood and tires, painted a bright turquoise blue.

“It really is all focused on beautifying and keeping Hall County clean, while encouraging people to adopt environmentally friendly habits,” Norman said.

The cookoff included 20 teams in two categories: professional and backyard barbecue. Attendees could purchase tickets to exchange for samples of the chicken.

“There are three categories: wings, chicken and specialty,” Norman said. “So there are lots of ways to compete and lots of delicious chicken to eat.”

Each entry was judged on appearance, taste and texture and the winners will be featured on the website and social media pages for city of Gainesville and Downtown Gainesville.

Wendy Brooks and her boyfriend Sam Jones were in attendance Saturday. Brooks said they heard about the event this week and were curious.

“We’ve had a bit of chicken already and it’s amazing,” she said. “It’s a neat event and there’s just a lot to see. We’ll probably go around a few times and make sure we hit everything.”

Jones said it was their first time at the festival.

“We almost didn’t come because of the rain, but it’s held off,” he said. “I’m glad we came out.”

Typically, the event attracts 5,000 to 6,000 people each year, and Norman said she expected the same amount this year, despite the bad weather in the morning. She was pleased by the turnout Saturday and grateful for the community support.

“The poultry industry especially is amazing to us,” she said. “They donate all the chicken and support what we’re doing, so we’re really fortunate to have the community support like we do.”

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