The Great Chicken Race Scandal of 1981

Posted July 29, 2020 at 5:30 am by

SJ His­tor­i­cal Muse­um with their His­to­ry Col­umn for August…

San Juan County Fair Inaugural Chicken Race 1981 - Steve Wilhelm photo

It was pret­ty easy to choose a top­ic for this month’s his­to­ry col­umn. Last month’s col­umn sug­gest­ed a theme when we came upon the fun pho­to from the 1981 Fourth of July Parade and decid­ed to use it, since we didn’t have a parade this year. Decid­ing to stick with 1981, a sim­pler time, we were delight­ed to find a good image and a few sto­ries from that year’s San Juan Coun­ty Fair, held August 19–22. Its theme was “The Old and the New,” fea­tur­ing the fair’s first ever Chick­en Race.

May we present to you a flash­back to the inau­gur­al Chick­en Race – which turned out to be a bit of a scan­dal, with feath­ers fly­ing in more ways than one! Here’s how it unfolded. 

A crowd gath­ered at the are­na on Fri­day, the high­ly antic­i­pat­ed race day, to cheer on twen­ty feath­ered entries, man­aged by their 4‑H han­dlers. Appar­ent­ly, the excite­ment of the moment hyped-up some of the han­dlers, who were observed to be chas­ing their birds at the start of the race, thus giv­ing them a head start. In addi­tion, the race was won by “Man-of-War,” but the crowd cried foul since the win­ner hap­pened to be owned by Leonard Knowles…who was in charge of the race. Want­i­ng to move past the con­tro­ver­sy and ruf­fled feath­ers, it was decid­ed to scratch the results and run the race again on Sat­ur­day, with­out the Knowles chick­en. There were few­er entries this time, but “Macho” the chick­en, owned by Edward Leche, fair­ly won the blue rib­bon after leav­ing ten chick­ens and two ducks behind in the dust.

We are grate­ful that Steve Wil­helm cap­tured the above image for the Jour­nal to doc­u­ment the Chick­en Race’s first year. Do you rec­og­nize any­one in the pho­to? Did you have an entry in the 1981 chick­en race? Please let us know at the San Juan His­tor­i­cal Soci­ety and Muse­um.

One more thing. We hope you enjoy the San Juan Coun­ty Vir­tu­al Fair, August 12–15. This year’s theme is “2020: A Fair Odyssey.” It’s mak­ing history.

You can support the San Juan Update by doing business with our loyal advertisers, and by making a one-time contribution or a recurring donation.

Categories: Animals, History

No comments yet. Be the first!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

By submitting a comment you grant the San Juan Update a perpetual license to reproduce your words and name/web site in attribution. Inappropriate, irrelevant and contentious comments may not be published at an admin's discretion. Your email is used for verification purposes only, it will never be shared.

Receive new post updates: Entries (RSS)
Receive followup comments updates: RSS 2.0