A chicken on every corner
Parades exist for a myriad of reasons to celebrate a range of people and events. From the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade to the Bellingham Procession of the Species, tens, to hundreds to thousands of people gather to march and watch parades. In Edison, south of Bellingham, chickens took to center street.
The streets were filled with chicken enthusiasts, adults, children, dogs in chicken costumes and actual chickens as the town came together for its fifth annual Chicken Parade on Sunday afternoon, Feb. 28.
Community members from in and outside of Edison showed up for the parade, filled with excitement. Costumes ranged from people in chicken hats, as chickens on roller blades, people dressed as chickens while driving cars and even a depiction of Colonel Sanders.
The Chicken Parade started out as one aspect of the Edison Bird Festival, held annually. Over time, the entire event became too much to handle and had to be down-sized, which is when the current community coordinator, Charles Atkinson took over managing the event, he said.
“It’s a place where we focus our enjoyment of each other and celebrate our community,” Atkinson said.
Andrew Vallee, a local business owner and resident of Edison for almost 10 years helped start up the event. Initially the concept of the parade was to focus on eagles, then broadened to the Bird Festival which then got narrowed down to chickens, Vallee said.
“I think what people were most excited about was the Chicken Parade,” Vallee said. “It was kind of the most exciting element for anybody, old or young to get into.”
Over the past few years, the popularity of the Chicken Parade has grown and now involved around 200 to 300 attendees, Atkinson said.
“People just sort of connected with it on a goofy sort of level,” Vallee said. “There’s certainly a special relationship between humans and chickens and I think at the core that’s got something to do with it.”
Vallee laughed as he recalled one of their first ideas for the parade involving ostriches walking up and down the streets of Edison. Not being able to find any ostriches in the area, Vallee said they finally decided to make it a chicken parade.
The festival was inspired by the important role that the migration of birds plays in the area, Atkinson said.
It is filled with different kinds of birds including swans, eagles and red-tail hawks. The festival originally involved speakers and information on birds in the area.
“The Festival of Birds is expressly a celebration of these migrations,” Atkinson said.
Elly Breckenridge, a resident of Edison and daughter of Tony Breckenridge, who helps plan the event, entered her two horses, Apollo and Jag in the chicken parade. Perched on top of the two horses were two chickens, named Salt and Pepper. The theme of chickens was everywhere with families bringing out their pet chickens, and even a duck, to celebrate.
The parade is a time when the town of 133 residents come out to celebrate together.
Families and community members from all over the area traveled to Edison to see the parade, including residents of Marysville, Anacortes and Bellingham.
Bellingham resident Beverly Arnold stumbled upon the event last year when she found herself in Edison during the parade. Returning for the parade this year with her family, Arnold said she thinks events like this are fun for community members and families. “I like an opportunity to do anything a little different and fun,” Arnold said. “I think it’s always a good idea to be able to do fun things together with your family.”
Sara Cannon, a resident of Marysville, Washington said she heard about the parade from her mother. She said she thinks events such as the parade are important. “I think they are fun. They’re a great thing for families to do. You get to see areas outside of your own community and it is just fun for families,” Cannon said.
In addition to being beneficial for community aspects, the parade has also been beneficial to the business aspect of Edison. The first time the parade was held was a fruitful day for the businesses in town, Vallee said.
Businesses within the community are often owned by active residents of the town, Vallee said, which adds to their sense of community.
“For me, to be honest, I’m a business person in town and I love the fun of it but I also enjoy generating economic activity,” Vallee said.
Shaun Cammock, a lifelong resident of Edison has been involved in the parade since it began. Cammock said that the parade brings in people from all over which sometimes produces new business in the town. Cammock says she hopes the parade will continue to be an annual event.
Breckenridge said she thinks the event is crucial because it involved the livestock of the community of Edison, and the livestock plays a significant role within their community.
While the added revenue is beneficial to the community, Atkinson said that is not the priority. “It is not the focus of the parade, nor is it the reason for it,” Atkinson said. “The focus of the parade is bringing families and creative people together in Edison and celebrating our existence and where we live.”
Dana Styber, a resident of Anacortes, said she has attended the event three times and appreciates the celebration of life, birding and chickens.
“I hope other people would model something particular to their area,” Styber said.