Blue Ribbon: Chicks at the Fair celebrates 65 years
A perennial favorite at the New York State Fair is celebrating a big anniversary, with some of the people who were there at the beginning STILL working at the Fair!
The exhibit, in the Youth Building for the past couple decades, has not changed much: people can watch eggs cracking, and the chicks emerging. People can hold the young birds--a fair memory for many young visitors, and a fair photo-op for their parents. The display is staffed by 4H members, mostly high schoolers , from around New York. As Youth Poultry Supervisor Mary Ann Whipple told us, "there are generations of adults who come back to see the chicks, and come back to see Eggbert."
'Eggbert' watches over the exhibit, after making his debut back in 1953. Until a few years ago, the egg with a face caricatured after NY Governor Thomas Dewey also talked, answering questions about egg production.
Eggbert was 'crowned' on his introduction at the Fair 65 years ago by Governor Dewey and that year's Poultry Queen, Jean Thomas. She STILL works in the Youth Building and says she was impressed at meeting the Governor back then, but now enjoys Fair fun, and is 'dyed in the wool 4H.' (She's had a nursing career in area schools).
Eggbert was introduced to the Governor by his inventor, Dr. Bob Baker. The Cornell professor dressed in medieval court clothes for the occasion, and brought several Cornell students and others from Ithaca, also dressed in period costume.
Dr. Baker's 'other' legacy at the Fair is the Baker's Chicken Coop restaurant (run by his daughter, grand daughter and other family members). Baker was a promoter of innovative ways to use poultry, and the BBQ Sauce recipe he invented is used on the chicken served at the Fair, and by hundreds of firefighters' BBQ fundraisers. He also invented chicken nuggets, turkey ham and turkey hot dogs....
As much as the Chicks at the Fair display is aimed at fairgoers, it's also been the start of poultry related careers for many of the exhibit staffers, who go on to do more than raise chickens on a farm. An example, Gracie Nicol, from near Canandaigua, who has been explaining about chicks since 2014. She plans to study poultry science in college, but wants to become an interpreter, to help as Americans help grow poultry production in Mexico and China. She says working at the exhibit has gotten her to love chickens and poultry, and she looks forward to a lifelong career in the industry.