Festival promises to be one to remember

By Lynn R. Parks

Connie Parvis has been organizing Delmarva Chicken Festivals for 30 years. As director of education and consumer information with the Delmarva Poultry Industry, a poultry trade group that sponsors the festival every summer, she works as the liaison between DPI and communities selected to host the festival. She attributes the success of the 54-year-old festival - it attracts up to 40,000 visitors - to the fact that each year, it is held in a different community. "Every year is different," said Parvis. "Each town brings its own flavor to the festival. And some are more fun than others." Parvis was one of about 60 people who attended a lunch Friday at the Western Sussex Boys and Girls Club to learn about Seaford"s plans for its festival. Seaford has been selected to host the 2002 Chicken Festival and chairman John Hollis promised a unique festival - the kind that, even in competition with 30 others, will stand out in Parvis" memory. "We want to put the good stuff of Seaford on display," said Hollis, showing off a festival logo that features a proposed festival theme, "America"s Best." "Not too long ago Seaford was selected as one of the best small towns in America," he added. The festival will focus on the town as well as on facets of the town that are "the best in America," he said. "We have one of the best family-owned businesses in our town," Hollis said. In introducing Charles and Warren Allen, owners of Allen Foods and Allen Poultry, he added, "There is no other company that does any more in reaching out to help the community, from Little League to the Seaford Mission to [the Boys and Girls Club]. It is one of America"s best and we will honor it."

To draw attention to the Nanticoke River, "one of America"s best rivers," the festival will feature a boat parade, organized by the Nanticoke Yacht Club. The festival will also feature a parade along High Street, "one of America"s best main streets." Pediatric neurosurgeon Ben Carson from Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, will speak at a Saturday-morning prayer breakfast. "He is a top surgeon in his field, one of America"s best," Hollis said. Carson is also much in demand as a speaker, Hollis added, and is booked for speaking engagements three years in advance. To close out activities Saturday evening, country group Ricochet will perform. The six-man band, fresh off a performance in Salisbury to benefit Delaware"s Boys and Girls Clubs and ready to depart for Greensboro, S.C., for another performance, attended the Friday lunch and sang a few songs, including their hit "Daddy"s Money" and an a cappella "Star-Spangled Banner." "A few years ago, Ricochet was named a top newcoming band," Hollis said. "They are the best band at singing the national anthem. They certainly fit into our theme of America"s best." The annual Chicken Festival is designed to "remind people of the importance of chicken and the poultry industry to this area," Parvis said. While each town can add features, the giant frying pan, a series of games called Chicken Capers and the educational exhibit featuring a hatchery are mandatory. Next year"s festival will take place Friday and Saturday, June 21 and 22, on the grounds near the Western Sussex Boys and Girls Club, Virginia Avenue. Seaford last hosted the festival in 1974 next to what was then the brand new Seaford High School. Last year"s festival was held in Pocomoke City, Md. Georgetown hosted the first festival in 1948. Of all Delmarva towns, Salisbury, Md., has hosted the most chicken festivals. City governments invite DPI to hold the festival in their towns and then the towns are evaluated to make sure they can handle it. "They have to have the organization to do it," Parvis said. "It takes a lot of work and a lot of volunteers." Parvis added that she is pleased with the activities being planned by Seaford. "The prayer breakfast is a first," she said. And while many towns include downtown parades as part of the festivities, Seaford"s will be the first Chicken Festival boat parade.

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