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Celebration features return of festival, frying pan

Delmarva Chicken Festival in Maryland draws thousands

October 2023

A 10-foot-tall, 650-pound frying pan was among the attractions at the 2023 Delmarva Chicken Festival. (Photo by Sean Clougherty)

by The Delmarva Farmer

SALISBURY, Md. — When the return of the Delmarva Chicken Festival was announced in March as part of a yearlong celebration of the 100th anniversary of the poultry industry on Delmarva, the first question to come was if the giant frying pan would be there. At that time, the answer was a sad “no,” considering the complicated logistics of getting it from its perch at the Georgetown Historical Society’s Marvel Carriage Museum to the festival.

But in the weeks leading up to the Delmarva Chicken Association’s event, held Oct. 7 at Arthur W. Perdue Stadium, the question came up again and again.

“It prompted everybody within DCA to get to thinking on how we can make this happen,” said James Fisher, DCA communications director.

Organizers estimated that 6,000-7,000 people visited the event Oct. 7. (Courtesy Delmarva Chicken Association)

In short order, the historical society, Perdue Farms and The Metal Shop of Delmar, Del., worked in concert to bring the iconic pan from Georgetown to Salisbury and make it one of the focal points of the festival. Its chicken-cooking days may be over, but standing on its edge and 10 feet tall, attendees still marveled at its presence.

But the 650-pound pan that debuted in 1950 was also a small part of the massive undertaking to bring back the festival after it paused in 2014.

People lined up for chicken dinners cooked by the Salisbury Lions Club the entire day, sometimes stretching across the festival area. The club cooked chicken on a 5-foot pan this year.

“When the fireworks were going off people were still getting chicken,” Fisher said.

Members of the Salisbury Lions Club cook chicken in a 5-foot wide frying pan, serving meals the entire day. (Photo by Sean Clougherty)

The Chicken Capers winners of Mountaire Farms’ Delaware team was, from left, Matt Campbell, Tim Pritchett, Garett Scott and Patrick Vanderslice. (Photo courtesy Mountaire Farms)

Other attractions at the festival included an open-air marketplace, several kids activities, including touch-a-truck exhibits, a petting zoo, a “Walk Through History” tent with historical displays, a virtual reality tour of a chicken farm, baby chicks for visitors to hold, a chickin’ pickin’ competition, two stages with entertainment, a hot wing eating contest, the crowning of Miss Delmarva Chicken Festival and fireworks to close out the event.

Organizers estimated between 6,000 and 7,000 people attended the free festival.

“We’re really excited by how many people, within the chicken community and our neighbors around Delmarva came together for chicken and to soak up some history,” Fisher said.

Also returning this year was the Chicken Capers, which pitted teams of chicken company employees against each other in competitive games. Mountaire’s Delaware team of Matt Campbell, Patrick Vanderslice, Garret Scott and Tim Prichett won the championship followed by Andrew Lee, Johnnie Barnes, Gage Dyes, and Jason Weston of Perdue Agribusiness Team 1 in second place and third place going to Perdue South Team 2, comprising Genvieve Pelletier, Nate Williamson, Drew Holladay and Josh Usilton.

Dr. Heather Hirst, USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service veterinarian, watches over the baby chick station at the Delmarva Chicken Festival. (Photo by Sean Clougherty)

At the conclusion of the festival, the giant pan was dismounted and safely returned to the Marvel Carriage Museum, “like it never left,” Fisher said.

With the massive event pulled off after an eight-year break, the frequently asked question became whether the festival will come back again next year or remain a one-off centennial celebration.

Fisher said organizers will meet to review the festival’s success and discuss what the future may hold.

“It’s just too soon to say,” he said. “We’re all just catching our breath.”

The Delmarva Farmer is a weekly newspaper for farmers, farming and the agriculture industry in Delaware, Maryland and Virginia.