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Chickn Festival, Cruisin Ride coming to Claxton
Cooking, cars, bicycling and footrace make busy Saturday
Web Wing Eating Winner
Wing Eating Contest winner Evelyn Carpenter basks in applause during the 2010 Evans County Chick'n Pick'n Festival. Carpenter, from Mount Vernon, is expected to return Saturday to defend her title. The only woman competing with 11 men last year, she consumed just one ounce more chicken than the runner-up. - photo by LINDA BLALOCK/Special

    If you cook or eat chicken, enjoy car shows, run or ride a bicycle, folks in Claxton have something planned for you Saturday.
    The Evans County Chick’n Pick’n Festival & Classic Car show is one event, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. on the Evans County Wildlife Club festival grounds. That is in the Claxton-Evans Industrial Park at Hagan, the town adjacent to Claxton, westward on U.S. Highway 280.
    Meanwhile, the Cruisin’ in the Country ride is being revived as a separate event the same day. Ride headquarters is the Evans County Recreation Department on Highway 280 just east of Claxton.
    The Wildlife Club and Claxton-Evans County Chamber of Commerce launched the Chick’n Pick’n in 2010 to add a fall festival on the site of the spring Rattlesnake Roundup. But last year’s Pick’n was held in September. Now the festival has been combined with the November car show the Evans County Classics Car Club has held for several years.
    In the past when upwards of 800 bicyclists came to Claxton for Cruisin’ in the Country, the community had little planned for the riders’ other family members. So the hosts would end up giving directions to attractions in Metter, Statesboro and Savannah, said Tammi Rogers Hall, the Chamber of Commerce’s executive director.
    “So we thought if we held the chicken festival on the same weekend, that would give those family members and friends that were coming with the Cruisin’ participants something to do,” Hall said. “They could stay right here in Evans County and have something to do for the children and adults.”
    But organizers hope that many more people come to Claxton just for the festival. Key features of the Chick’n Pick’n include the Chicken Cook-Off and Wing Eating Contest.
    While the Chamber, Wildlife Club and Evans County Classics share billing as hosts, Claxton Poultry is listed as festival sponsor. The poultry company, Evans County’s largest employer, provides all chicken for use in both contests and also donates the prize money.
Cooking and Eating
    In the Cook-Off, culinary artists will compete in three categories: main dish, fried and grilled. Prizes in each category are $500 for first place, $250 for second and $100 for third. Entry fees are $50 for an individual cook or $100 for a team.
    Cooks must attend a meeting Friday evening where they will receive chicken in the cuts and quantities they have pre-ordered. They may marinate it, but the chicken then goes back into locked refrigeration until Saturday, when contestants may begin cooking as early as 6 a.m. and must finish by noon.
    The contest will remain open to more cooks until Friday morning unless the maximum is reached sooner, Hall said. See the Claxton-Evans Chamber of Commerce website or call (912) 739-1391 for more information. The site includes printable entry forms and rule sheets for several of Saturday’s events.
    Calls for Cook-Off judges went to restaurant chefs, school nutrition directors and some university coaches. It takes a total of nine, three judges for each of the three categories.
    After the winners are announced, the dishes will be available for free tasting by festival-goers.
    Entering the Wing Eating Contest is simpler. It is free and open to the first 12 participants who register at the festival between 9:30 and 10:30 a.m. for the contest at 11 a.m. They must be at least 18 years old and sign a statement that they are in good health.
    Getting messy with sauce, competitors will see who can consume the most wing meat, by weight, in eight minutes. Wings are weighed before; bones after.
    The Claxton Chicken wings will be prepared by the Georgia Grill with the mild version of Wing Maxx seasoning, Hall said.
    Of course, chicken also features prominently in the food available for purchase at the festival. The craft show will remain open to additional vendors until Saturday. Other festival features include children’s activities and musical performers.
Car Show
    Meanwhile, the Evans County Classics Car Club is incorporating its established show into the festival. Attendees will gain entry to both for one price: $5 general admission; $3 military, law enforcement, firefighters, emergency medical service and veterans with ID; free for children 5 and under.
    Owners of vehicles to be shown will pay $10 to enter. The 23 trophies include Best of Show, Best Late Model and the rest of the Top 20, plus People’s Choice, Longest Distance (driven to enter) and Top Participating Club.
Run for the Roost
    The Run for the Roost is a five-kilometer footrace and one-mile fun run and walk starting at 8 a.m. before the festival. Both routes begin and end at Claxton High School’s football field, known as the Pecan Grove. The CHS cross-country team sponsors the event and receives the proceeds for team needs. Participants receive T-shirts. Trophies or medals are awarded in several age brackets and for overall male and female first-place at each distance.
    A deadline for a discount has passed, and the entry fee is now $20, with registrations accepted at the school until 3 p.m. Friday. A form is available on the Chamber of Commerce website.
Cruisin’ Bike Ride
    Finally, Cruisin’ in the Country, which has been evolving since 1996, returns after a one-year hiatus. Last year the chamber dropped the bike ride in favor of the Chick’n Pick’n. But after no other organization picked the ride up as had been hoped, the chamber received hundreds of emails and telephones from past participants wanting it restored, Hall acknowledged.
    After the pause, Cruisin’ is definitely in recovery mode, said first-time Ride Director Chase Cofield. With just over 200 pre-registrations by last week, he said, the total was lagging about 100 riders below 2009’s pre-ride numbers.
    But ride-day registration has always added significantly to the tally, and Cofield projected that about 400 riders will participate.
    They will traverse portions of Evans, Tattnall, Bulloch and Candler counties on paved roads selected for low traffic counts.  Riders choose among 18-, 32-, 65- and 100-mile routes.
    Since an early registration date has passed, riders will pay $65 to register. Riders receive event shirts, goody bags with items supplied by local merchants, plus rest stop refreshments, entertainment and a post-ride meal. This year, it’s a chicken lunch from the Chick’n Pick’n or a vegetarian option. Camping is available. Riders who complete the 100-mile route receive a century cap.
    Predicting a great ride, Cofield added a request that motorists and cyclists “be courteous and share the road."

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