On The Road With RL Reeves Jr: 2016 Fried Chicken Festival In London Kentucky

2016 Fried Chicken Festival In London Kentucky

2016 Fried Chicken Festival In London Kentucky

Formally known as the World Chicken Festival, everybody in southeastern Kentucky simply calls the annual London event ‘Fried Chicken Fest’. Either way, it had been a coon’s age since I ventured to Laurel county for the shindig so on a recent trip through Appalachia I decided to wedge in a trip to the town, eat a plate of fried chicken and think about what might have been.

2016 Fried Chicken Festival In London Kentucky

2016 Fried Chicken Festival In London Kentucky

The World Chicken Festival has been running since 1989 when it was established as a lure to draw in tourists to economically hard-hit Eastern Kentucky. It’s been a runaway success with tens of thousands of people from all over the US convening in London to eat fried chicken, party, shop at the local flea markets, have a few cold beers (in a city that historically has been dry) and maybe a get a tattoo over at Bodean’s to commemorate all the good times.

2016 Fried Chicken Festival In London Kentucky

2016 Fried Chicken Festival In London Kentucky

I’ve lost count of how many Colonel Sanders tattoos I’ve seen in Kentucky over the years.

2016 Fried Chicken Festival In London Kentucky

2016 Fried Chicken Festival In London Kentucky

It’s well over 90 degrees and the blacktop is blistering hot but that hasn’t stopped thousands of people from crowding down the main drag that runs through downtown London. A carnival sits one street over and dozens of people are in line for the Vortex, Street Fighter and Mind Eraser rides.

2016 Fried Chicken Festival In London Kentucky

2016 Fried Chicken Festival In London Kentucky

I’m content to just stroll along taking pictures of the good country people. Londoners are photogenic and nobody notices a writer walking along documenting the fried chicken party.

2016 Fried Chicken Festival In London Kentucky

2016 Fried Chicken Festival In London Kentucky

Soon enough I arrive at the big food hall/tent near where the steel cook pan that turns out all the fried chicken sits. At 10 feet 6 inches in diameter, the stainless steel beast is 8 inches deep, has an 8 foot handle, and weighs 700 pounds total. It takes 300 gallons of cooking oil to fill this monster. Signs trumpet the use of peanut oil but we were rooting for lard, the finest frying medium on earth.

2016 Fried Chicken Festival In London Kentucky

2016 Fried Chicken Festival In London Kentucky

Two men are busy dredging raw chicken pieces in seasoned flour and then submitting them to the hot fat. The crowd inside the tent is thin so the men are taking their time and only cooking a few pieces at once.

2016 Fried Chicken Festival In London Kentucky

2016 Fried Chicken Festival In London Kentucky

Breaking my reverie I walk inside, pay my $7 fee and wait for a moment while a couple disinterested teen girls load my plate with a hunk of fried, white meat chicken, and a brown and serve roll.

2016 Fried Chicken Festival In London Kentucky

2016 Fried Chicken Festival In London Kentucky

In New Orleans this is the part where you eat the best plate of food in your life, as festival chow is taken just as seriously as the Sunday after meeting feast. Unfortunately, the bird served here is d.o.a. Dry as dust and lacking seasoning, if a restaurant served me this plate I would send it back.

2016 Fried Chicken Festival In London Kentucky

2016 Fried Chicken Festival In London Kentucky

No matter. I gamely chew through a few bites before spotting a Colonel Sanders look-a-like and shift my attention back to picture taking. This ‘Colonel’ is a dead ringer and people are openly beseeching him to pose for photos with them.

2016 Fried Chicken Festival In London Kentucky

2016 Fried Chicken Festival In London Kentucky

I make my way back to the promenade and slowly work through the stifling heat to my truck. I wheel out of town and begin dreaming of how cool the deep woods of Daniel Boone National Forest near Cumberland Falls must be right now.

2016 Fried Chicken Festival In London Kentucky

2016 Fried Chicken Festival In London Kentucky

If you go:

2016 Fried Chicken Festival In London Kentucky

2016 Fried Chicken Festival In London Kentucky

London was founded in 1826

2016 Fried Chicken Festival In London Kentucky

2016 Fried Chicken Festival In London Kentucky

It enjoys an elevation of 1,240 feet

2016 Fried Chicken Festival In London Kentucky

2016 Fried Chicken Festival In London Kentucky

World Chicken Festival is held the last full weekend of September each year

2016 Fried Chicken Festival In London Kentucky

2016 Fried Chicken Festival In London Kentucky

I recommend a visit to the Dairy Dart near downtown for the simple reason that they served the finest pineapple milkshake I’ve ever encountered

2016 Fried Chicken Festival In London Kentucky

2016 Fried Chicken Festival In London Kentucky

2016 Fried Chicken Festival In London Kentucky

2016 Fried Chicken Festival In London Kentucky

About RL Reeves Jr

I'm a writer living and working in New Orleans, Louisiana.
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3 Responses to On The Road With RL Reeves Jr: 2016 Fried Chicken Festival In London Kentucky

  1. Pingback: Field Report: 2016 Fried Chicken Festival In London Kentucky | Scrumptious Chef

  2. Alien says:

    KY is the butthole of the USA. Unfortunate that all these rednecks get to represent all of us.Trump supporters, “heritage not hate” (aka casual racism), & drug addicts. Not everyone here in ky is like that thankfully.

  3. RL Reeves Jr says:

    I love Kentucky and disagree with your contention. There are plenty Trump supporters in all 50 states. I just thought the guy in the photo would make a good picture, and he did. London’s a lovely small town, I visit there once or twice a year and always have a good time.

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