A fair for fowl: Festival marks Ocean View’s role in broiler industry

By Glenn Rolfe
Posted 5/11/22

OCEAN VIEW — It’s back where the broiler industry was hatched by accident.

Some 99 years ago, Ocean View resident Cecile Steele nurtured a mistaken delivery — 500 egg-laying chicks, not the 50 she ordered — into a meaty business that eventually blossomed into Sussex County’s billion-dollar broiler industry.

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A fair for fowl: Festival marks Ocean View’s role in broiler industry

Posted

OCEAN VIEW — It’s back where the broiler industry was hatched by accident.

Some 99 years ago, Ocean View resident Cecile Steele nurtured a mistaken delivery — 500 egg-laying chicks, not the 50 she ordered — into a meaty business that eventually blossomed into Sussex County’s billion-dollar broiler industry.

Fast-forward a century to May 21, when the Historic Village in Ocean View will hold a half-day event celebrating the original DelMarVa Chicken Festival, a popular, decades-long local tradition that began in 1950.

“It is to celebrate chicken in memory of that event, which was a weeklong event throughout the whole peninsula. It was a big deal back in the 1950s, ‘60s, ‘70s and even in the ‘80s,” said Carol Psaros, festival coordinator. “It’s a mini chicken festival in memory of the DelMarVa one. This is the first time we’ve done this event, even though it is the third time we’ve planned it. We were going to offer it in 2020, and then, COVID hit. This is finally going to happen.”

The family-friendly festivities will run from noon to 6:30 p.m. at John West Park, featuring games, contests, giveaways and, of course, chicken. Admission is free.

Sponsors include the town of Ocean View, the Delmarva Chicken Association, G&E Hocker’s Supermarkets, Pohanka of Salisbury (Maryland), Wilgus Associates, the Black Pearl Pirate Party Bus, the Delaware Department of Agriculture, Coastal Point, the Delaware Farm Bureau, Farm Credit MidAtlantic, Gale Force Rentals, Doric Lodge No. 30 and two of the area’s poultry giants: Perdue and Mountaire.

DJ Brian K. Hall will serve as emcee and provide music, including periodic playing of the famous “chicken dance” song, a prelude to the Chicken Kickin’ Dance Contest at 4:30.

Other highlights include:

  • The documentary, “Cluck, Pluck and Luck,” about the origins of the chicken industry in Ocean View, being shown in Hall’s Store.
  • A white elephant table of various chicken-related items for sale (cash only).
  • A chicken pickin’ contest with cash prizes, hosted by Zach Evans from Mountaire at 2.
  • Children’s crafts, including a chicken visor for a parade.
  • A “color a chicken” session hosted by Dr. Joanne Guilfoil, a local artist, author and chicken aficionado.
  • Delaware Secretary of Agriculture Michael Scuse is expected for the egg toss at 3:15.
  • University of Delaware Cooperative Extension’s Georgie Cartanza will host a “Chicken Chatter” session to explain everything one would want to know about chickens.
  • Face painting, Perdue’s Touch-a-Truck and the Delaware Farm Bureau’s mobile ag lab.

Organizers note that a rather large, feathered attraction may be roaming the festival grounds.

And besides chicken, other food options will be available.

Proceeds will benefit the Historic Village, a local nonprofit that preserves, interprets and collects the history of Ocean View and the surrounding area.

The event next week coincides with that history.

“Our historic buildings are open. That is one (of) the key elements of the event,” said Ms. Psaros. “We have several historic buildings, one of them being Cecile Steele’s first chicken house.”

Marsha Evans, the communications director for the Historic Village, said tours will be offered.

“In addition to bringing back the chicken festival in Sussex County, it also allows the Historic Village in Ocean View to bring people around to tour our buildings,” she said. “That includes our wonderful Hall’s Store. Hall’s Store was the original name of the town of Ocean View.”

As a kickoff to the May 21 event, on the evening of May 19, The Cafe on 26 will host a dinner with a portion of its proceeds going to the Historic Village.

“And that restaurant is Cecile Steele’s original home. She and her husband, Wilmer Steele, resided there,” said Ms. Evans. “Now, that is a restaurant in our lovely town.”

Chicken, anyone?

Chicken platters — fried or smoked — will be for sale during the festival. Platters will include a leg and thigh, potato chips, applesauce, coleslaw and dessert. Beverages will be an additional cost.

The smoked chicken is being prepared by members of Doric Lodge No. 30, while the fried chicken is being cooked by Hocker’s Supermarkets. Platters can be purchased in advance.

For information, visit here.

Transportation

With limited parking, organizers encourage carpooling. Some parking will be open at Mariners Bethel United Methodist Church, 81 Central Ave.; Ocean View Presbyterian Church, 67 Central Ave.; and Ocean View Church of Christ, 55 West Ave.

A bus will provide transportation to and from the festival via these lots.