Can Chicken Festival be saved? Chamber works to salvage iconic event

004 fry pan

It could be that the Delmarva Chicken Festival won’t skip a year, but continue uninterrupted, under the direction of the Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce

The traditional community event, known for its giant frying pan and for drawing thousands of people, was held in various cities for 65 years, but the last one was this year.

Salisbury Chamber members want to see it continue.

“I went to the board and said, ‘I think this is something we should look into,” said Ernie Colburn, CEO of the chamber.

“I said, ‘We should consider picking up the rights to this’ and they agreed and asked me to pursue it,” Colburn said.

In April, he wrote to the Delmarva Poultry Industry and the DPI board granted rights to the chamber.

Colburn said the chamber didn’t ask for the giant frying pan, that English’s restaurant, known for fried chicken, could have it as a promotional tool. That’s the second pan. The original one is in a museum in Georgetown, Colburn said.

Bill Satterfield, director of DPI, said the board “wishes the chamber well.”

There wasn’t public outcry when the end of the festival was announced, he said, and clamoring of town officials wishing to host the festival had slowed in recent years. There was a time cities had to wait three years to have a local chicken festival.

Berlin hosted it about 10 years ago, and Michael Day, director of economic development there, called it “great for the community.”

“The Salisbury Chamber is a great organization that runs great events. They’ve got their act together,” Day said.

While the chicken festival “is nice to have as an economic driver” that attracts about 40,000 people,” he said, Berlin probably wouldn’t host it again any time soon because “it’s a mammoth undertaking,” Day said, and requires attending meetings for a full year to plan it.

But Salisbury Chamber members are pleased to have the rights  and legal paperwork “to protect the name so no one else on the peninsula can take it and run with it,” Colburn said.

It hasn’t yet been determined when the next chicken festival will be, or the venue.

That will be decided by the chamber’s tourism network, within the business and economic development section of the chamber.

“We have had 32 years of successful experience with the Salisbury Festival. Now, do we combine the two? Don’t know. Do we take good points of both of those and put them together in a new venue? Don’t know,” Colburn said.

A decision could be made by the end of the year.

It isn’t even certain the event will be a traditional chicken festival.

“Everything is still on the table,” Colburn said.

“We’re looking forward to the opportunity to bring a fresh image and new venue to a Delmarva Peninsula tradition.”


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