The Delta Chicken Festival has been a tradition for 66 years, and the 2016 edition this weekend will be spiced up with some new musical acts and tournament play.
The festivities, which run from 5 p.m. Friday, July 8, to 7 p.m. Sunday, July 10, will, of course, begin with what has drawn people to the Delta Memorial Park shindig since 1950 – a barbecue chicken dinner. It will be served throughout the weekend for $8 per meal, and take-home barbecued half chickens will be on sale for $4.50 each at the Chicken Speed Line in the Delta High School parking lot.
Burning off that chicken dinner is possible through the 5K Chicken Run. The traditional run, sponsored by Dave’s Running Shop, has moved this year to Friday at 6:30 p.m., with registration at 6 p.m. It begins at the Delta Police Department, 421 Fernwood St., and circles its way through village streets and back to its starting point. All participants will be awarded “Chicken Bucks” which can be spent at the festival.
A Kids’ Fun Run will be held at 6:30 p.m.
Other Friday events include Bingo hosted by the Delta American Legion from 5-10:30 p.m., a cornhole tournament at noon, a 3-on-3 basketball tournament at 6 p.m., and a youth baseball tournament from 6-10 p.m.
The evening will be capped with a fireworks show at 10:30 p.m. at the DHS football field. Sponsored by Fraternal Order of Eagles Post 2597 and its Auxiliary, the $6,000 pyrotechnics extravaganza will be presented by Legendary Entertainment Productions of Commercial Point, Ohio.
The baseball tournament will continue on Saturday from 8 a.m.-7 p.m., and at 9 a.m. soccer and volleyball tournaments will begin. One of the festival’s newest features, a 5-on-5 football tournament, will be held 3-9 p.m. at the DHS football field.
The DHS Alumni Baseball Game will take place at 5 p.m. at the high school varsity baseball diamond.
On Sunday, the 29th Annual Car, Truck, and Motorcycle Show will kick off at 9 a.m. east of the high school football stadium. At 11 a.m., a Christian church service hosted by Delta Church of Christ and its Praise Band will be held on the food pavilion stage.
The Grand Parade, with this year’s theme, “Chicken Season…ing” will begin at 2 p.m. This year’s Grand Marshals are Jim and Sue McDonnall.
New musical guests entertaining this year include: Red Ball Jets, a Mansfield, Ohio, band playing rock Friday from 9-10:30 p.m. and 11 p.m.-12:30 a.m.; Delta native Rodney Parker and Liberty Beach playing rock and country Saturday from 7-11 p.m., and the John Galbraith Family of Lyons singing gospel on Sunday from noon-2 p.m. Visitors can also hear Nuttin’ Fancy on Friday from 5-8:30 p.m., and the Bridge County Band, playing bluegrass music and featuring Delta native Steve Porter on banjo, on Saturday.
Throughout the weekend, visitors can feast on hamburgers, french fries, and milk shakes served by high school students, as well as snow cones, cotton candy, ice cream, and goodies provided by several other food vendors. A beer tent will offer adult beverages Friday and Saturday.
Visitors can also peruse 30 merchandise vendors and attend the exotic animal exhibit. D&R Shows of Lambertville, Mich., will provide kids’ rides.
The Chicken Festival was started to ease the burden of financing the village park. Since then, all proceeds have directly benefited the park and its community pool.
“It’s all financed by the Chicken Festival,” said Kathy Miller, festival chair. “We’ve kept our pool running and in good repair all these years because of it.”
The festival is operated each year by hundreds of volunteers from organizations including the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of America, area 4-H Clubs and FFA groups, Delta sports teams, village bank employees, the Lions Club, the American Legion, North Star BlueScope Steel, and Worthington Steel, among others.
An estimated 20,000 people attended last year’s Chicken Festival, attracting people from as far as Toledo, Port Clinton, and Lima. The event raised $14,000.
“We have a couple other festivals, but this is the big one,” Miller said. “It’s a great family-oriented festival that offers a little bit of something for everyone.”
Admission and parking are free. To view the full roster of events, visit deltachickenfestival.com.
David J. Coehrs can be reached at 419-335-2010.