WAYNE — People got a taste of chicken here last weekend, and not just in the literal sense.
Hundreds flocked to Wayne to strut their chicken legs, wave their feathers and give a hearty bawk-bawk for the 39th annual Wayne Chicken Show.
Among the highlights was Saturday afternoon, as dozens gathered in the mid-July heat to give chicken impressions, toss eggs and rubber chickens and a hard boiled egg eating contest, which ended only after a sudden death round and the winner consumed 32 total eggs in four minutes.
Overall, it was another successful year, Irene Fletcher, assistant director of the Wayne Chamber of Commerce said.
Fletcher said the show was well attended and drew visitors from around the region, many of whom come by just to see what a “chicken show” is all about.
Along with the Chamber of Commerce, the show is put together by a committee of 25 volunteers and supported by numerous local sponsors.
But the Chicken Show has relatively humble origins. Originally hosted by the Wayne Regional Arts Council, the first Chicken Show was a single day arts festival. The reason for the chicken theme is relatively straightforward: chickens are familiar to everyone and leave a lot of room for artistic interpretation.
But perhaps most importantly?
“It’s a funny idea,” Fletcher said. “It’s always been tongue-in-cheek, with lots of chicken jokes and puns.”
Though the silliness has remained, the show has evolved into something much bigger over the years. What started as a show on a single afternoon, it’s become a full three day event with festivities including a parade, numerous games, works of art and commercial activity.
The amount of time and investment put into the event has helped it earn statewide and even national recognition, earning an Outstanding Tourism Award in 1996 from the state of Nebraska and was featured by the Library of Congress in 1999. Most recently, the festival was an official event for Nebraska’s sesquicentennial in 2017.
To keep things fresh and attendance strong, the show has a different theme every year, said Abby Schademann, marketing and tourism director for the Wayne Area Chamber of Commerce, along with new chicken-themed events and ideas.
A new idea this year was a chicken cook-off, appropriately sponsored by Raising Cane’s. Schademann said the cook-off was well attended for its first year.
Fletcher said that one factor that has helped sustain the show has been the fact that many class reunions are usually scheduled the weekend of the Chicken Show. The show also takes on a new theme each year.
This year’s was “Chickens Around the World,” with many events having an international twist, Fletcher said.
Even in the short time since the 2019 Chicken Show has ended, Fletcher said there has been good feedback, and the volunteer committee that runs the show will meet again soon to begin preparation for 2020.
The Chicken Show has come to embody the Wayne community.
“This was an event that a group of people decided to make happen, and we’ve made it happen,” Schademann said. “And it shows we don’t take ourselves too seriously; we’re not afraid to have a little fun.”