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DARDANELLE — Anyone who likes to eat chicken, owns a chicken, or can call a chicken or do the chicken dance should enjoy the Mount Nebo Chicken Fry.

To be fair, even people who don’t like chicken could find something that appeals to their tastes.

The 67th annual Mount Nebo Chicken Fry will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday in Veterans Memorial Riverfront Park in downtown Dardanelle.

Tanya Hendrix, executive director of the Dardanelle Area Chamber of Commerce, said the festival has several new events this year.

Kicking off the day at 10 a.m. will be a parade featuring antique tractors and cars, additions this year to tie into the event’s agriculture theme.

Hendrix said the Dardanelle Chamber received an agriculture grant of $1,846.50.

“With it being agriculture, and it’s a chicken festival, it’s part of agriculture. We qualified for that reason,” Hendrix said. “That helped us to incorporate new ideas and new activities and kind of spruce it up a little, I guess you could say.

“We want to incorporate the antique tractors, the antique two-cylinder generators. We’ve got two antique tractor clubs who have contacted me, and they are bringing several antique tractors, so I’m thankful for that.”

The antique cars will be in the parade, too, before they are parked to be on display for the antique car show. The beauty-pageant winners will ride in the parade, as well.

Other new events are a lawnmower race, a chicken race and the Battle of the Bands.

Participants in the chicken race have to bring their own chickens.

“The chickens themselves are racing — we hope,” Hendrix said, laughing.

“We’re going to put up some orange plastic fencing and going to make rows and a start line and a finish line, at least to keep the chickens in their own lane,” she said.

A chicken-calling contest is a tradition at the festival. One of the past champions is 46-year-old Lorrie Miller, co-owner of Miller Roofing Co. in Russellville.

“I just went to hear my daughter sing — they had invited her to sing — and from there, they had the various contests and activities,” Miller said.

The chicken-calling contest didn’t have many participants, she said, “so I thought, ‘Well, why not?’ I’ve always been really good at it. I was raised on a farm, just had a lot of practice growing up.

“Mine is more like a hen cackle.”

Although winning is something to crow about, Miller said she doesn’t plan on competing again.

One of this year’s biggest events has nothing to do with chickens.

“We’re very, very excited about the Battle of the Bands,” Hendrix said.

Clay Hooten, director of bands for the Dardanelle School District, “he’s the ramrod of this,” Hendrix said. “We went to him with the idea. He loved it; he jumped on board, and he’s handled most of that.”

Ten bands sent demo tapes, Hooten said, and he chose five.

“Originally we wanted four; they were so good, we picked five,” Hendrix said.

“I’ve heard the CDs,” Hooten said. “There’s not a bad one in the bunch, and some of them are really, really good,” even professional sounding, he said.

Hooten said the groups are from Conway to Fort Smith, and the genres range from country to blues.

“I even think there’s a little bit of contemporary Christian mixed in,” he said.

Beginning at 10 a.m., bands will battle for first, second and third place. Prizes will be $1,000, $500 and $250, respectively.

Hooten said he wasn’t sure about the event at first.

“I was skeptical, because for something like that to be successful, I told them, first of all, it has to be well organized; second of all, you have to have money,” Hooten said.

The chamber came up with the prize money to make the contest enticing, he said.

“I said, ‘If you can do that and get a sound guy and get it down right, it will grow, and the Chicken Fry will love it,’” he said.

Hendrix said people can compete in “the chicken dance,” too, performing as a group.

“We’re going to have that sometime between the bands. It’s just for fun,” she said.

The festival will include “some arts and crafts” booths, horseshoes, Hendrix said, “and, of course, political speakers. They’re going to have tents set up.”

Organizers have brought back a Power Wheels race for kids, bounce houses, and the lawnmower race.

Registration for all events is 9 a.m. Saturday. More information is available from the Dardanelle Area Chamber of Commerce at (479) 229-3328.

And, no festival is ever complete without food.

With the Tyson plant in Dardanelle, chicken is the main course.

“Tyson is providing 99 percent of everything: the chicken, the ingredients, the cook team,” Hendrix said.

From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., fried chicken strips will be available, as well as smoked and grilled chicken.

The cost is $5 for adults, and $3 for children 12 and younger.

The weather was “horrible” during last year’s event, Hendrix said, but she’s optimistic about this year.

“I think we’re going to have a great turnout, and the chicken is excellent,” Hendrix said.

What won’t be returning for this year’s festival is a lovely-legs contest for males because of last year’s lack of participation, she said.

Apparently, they’re too chicken.

Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or tkeith@arkansasonline.com.

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