In 1954, the Village of Delta announced its intent to purchase 23 acres for the community. The Aetna Grange led fundraisers, donations, and a kick-off dinner to raise the $10,000 needed to purchase the park within 10 months, establishing the Delta Municipal Park in 1955.
Shortly after, the “Recreation Council” also known as “The Happy Hearts Council” was established to promote the park and drum up financial support for park maintenance. They started the Delta Chicken Festival in 1956 (which was then called The Delta Homecoming) and raised $2,593.66 that first year. They grilled 900 locally harvested chicken halves over an open pit on Main Street. They blocked off the street and had amusement rides, concession stands, and a parade, not much different from how we know the festival today!
What's up with the name? Poultry has always been part of Delta’s history. One of the earliest industries associated with our village was the export of eggs by a Mr. Howard and Mr. Moore shipping 60-80 barrels each week averaging 80 dozen eggs per barrel! When the festival began in the 1950s, Delta was home to one of the largest chicken hatcheries in the area, as well as multiple chicken finishing farms. Rupp’s Chick Hatchery was one of the longest, continually operating businesses in Delta. The hatchery was located on the South side of Wilson Street Bridge and hatched about 5,000-7,000 chicks each week in its prime.
In 1962 we moved to our current location on the Delta Municipal Park grounds. In 1964 we sold 3,224 and in 1988 we peaked at 5,400 chicken halves. We currently estimate we sell 3,800 chicken halves. Through selling chicken and many additional festival activities, the Delta Chicken Festival makes approximately $10,000 annually for Delta Parks and Recreation. An estimated 230 volunteers give 1400 hours total to make this event possible! Over the years, proceeds have gone to the community pool, planting shade trees, sidewalk installation, shelter house installations and improvements, bathroom installations and improvements, soccer nets, ball diamond upkeep, basketball and tennis court installations and demolitions, and more.
Even though our town has changed, our sense of community remains strong. Join us at the Delta Chicken Festival and enjoy good food, friends, music, and of course, good chicken! We hope to see you there!