In 1956, the Aetna Grange members in Fulton County grilled 900 chicken halves and raised $2,600 to support the new 23-acre Delta Municipal Park.
It was a humble beginning that spawned the annual Delta Chicken Festival, now in its 63rd year and scheduled for this weekend, July 12-14. Festival Chair Kathy Miller said the event, with its popular chicken barbecue, sports tournaments, and exotic animal display, among other attractions, won’t disappoint.
“That’s what sets us apart (from other festivals). It brings us a broader crowd. We try to spark an interest in everybody,” she said.
To that end, the Chicken Festival will reintroduce the Miss Delta Pageant on Friday at 6 p.m. at the food pavilion stage. A fixture until about a decade ago, the pageant will feature the talents of contestants Dakota Swicegood, 16, and Jordinn Heinemann, 11. The winner will be awarded a $250 scholarship, courtesy of the Chicken Festival and Delta Parks and Recreation.
The push to revive the pageant came from Miller’s daughters, Kayla and Amy. Kayla, who won the last pageant, held in 2008, told her mother, “I want to give somebody else the crown.”
The first night will also offer entertainment by the Delta High School cheerleaders, baseball and basketball tournaments, music by 56 Daze, and fireworks sponsored by the Delta Eagles.
Saturday will kick off at 8 a.m. with the 5K Chicken Run sponsored by Dave’s Running; registration begins at 7 a.m. The day continues with baseball, soccer, and volleyball tournaments, a cornhole tournament, and entertainment by Lemonade Renegade, Aaron Broissa, and Random Act.
The Chicken Festival concludes on Sunday with a car, truck and motorcycle show at 9 a.m.; a non-denominational worship service at 11 a.m.; music by the John Galbraith Family Band starting at noon; and baseball championship games from 5-9 p.m.
The festival parade, sponsored by the Delta Chamber of Commerce, and with the theme “The Wonderful World of Delta,” will be held 2-3 p.m.
The festival’s popular chicken dinners will be available for eat-in or carryout throughout the weekend. An estimated 4,300 barbecued chicken halves will be served.
Eleven main course and side item food concessions will offer burgers, barbecue, milkshakes, and more. A beer tent will be open, and there will be 35 retail vendors.
Bingo will be held in the food pavilion. A Big 6 wheel and kids’ rides will be on the midway. Animal Oasis, an exotic animal exhibit presented by Don Strobel of Clinton, Mich., will offer a petting farm and pony and camel rides.
Miller said recent rains caused the festival planners to reconsider locations for some festival events, but drier conditions this week convinced them to keep everything in Delta Municipal Park.
“The wet weather’s really been a struggle for us, making things quite difficult,” she said.
The annual festival supports capital improvements in the park. Proceeds from last year’s festival totaled just over $16,000, and were used to upgrade a village tennis court, volleyball court, and playground.
Miller said the Delta Chicken Festival is a safe, family-friendly event that draws people from across northwest Ohio.
“There’s something for everyone,” she said.
Delta Mayor Dan Miller said the Chicken Festival is one of many sources of pride for the village.
‘It’s across the board for all family members. There’s something for everyone there, from kids to the older generations,” he said. “It’s one of the spokes that makes for a great environment to raise a family in Delta.”
For more information, visit deltachickenfest.com or the 2019 Delta Chicken Festival Facebook page.
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.