Driving along Highway 16 towards Fort St. James, it is nearly impossible to miss the large billboard stating that the community is home to “World Class Chicken Racing”.
Although it may seem like some sort of gimmicky tourist attraction to some, the frequent event — which still draws in numerous tourists every year — is something that locals have embraced, as well.
This past weekend during Fort St. James’ annual Salmon Day cook-off, guests who came for a delightful afternoon of salmon sampling were also subject to a 15 minute period where they could posture up as if they were some sort of horse-race betting aficionado.
In lanes lined with chicken wire, five respective chickens — or the occasional race where a duck is featured — line up and race down a mini-golf course sized track, while enthusiastic onlookers bet on the feathered competitors.
Those who are able to make the correct prediction before the race starts receive coveted bragging rights, but the Fort St. James’ National Historic Site’s small-town version of horse racing is an absolute joy.
There is a certain spectacle to the whole event, as behemoth-sized chickens with names like Attilla the Hen are pitted up against other domesticated fowl who bear the moniker “Nuggets”. The competitors are introduced in spectacular fashion, while onlookers hold their breath in anticipation as the feathered fowl make their way to the finish line.
People from all walks of life are wrapped up in the emotion and pure, unadulterated fun of the event, as locals and tourists alike gather for, what this reporter can say, is a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Ultimately, Fort St. James puts on their chicken racing events in hopes that passers-by will be enticed enough to check out the feathered frenzy that will unfold.
But, locals should be proud of the event. Although chickens are some of the most common and widespread domestic animals internationally, there is something incredibly unique about witnessing five birds race down a runway.
Chicken racing offers something unique to the community, while also giving Fort St. James their own kind of small town flare. It most certainly should be celebrated.