Which came first, the chicken or the overreaching lawmaker?

This story first appeared on CarolinaJournal.com

By John Trump

Bring up chicken and the clichés and idioms come immediately.

Combine in one sentence chicken and government and prepare for your mind to be blown.

“Which came first, the chicken or the overreaching lawmaker?”

“Winner winner chicken-subsidy dinner.”

“Don’t count all your chickens until the government takes its share.”

“Why did the chicken cross the road? Because he was called to Fayetteville, don’t you know?

To the Fayetteville Fried Chicken Festival, which could, starting next year, become the annual Official Fried Chicken Festival of the State of North Carolina.

A brood of lawmakers Feb. 15 signed on and submitted House Bill 96, which officially adopted the aforementioned soiree, to be “held the third weekend of May of every year … as the official fried chicken festival of the State of North Carolina.”

As if we don’t have enough on Jones Street to worry about.

The bill mentions North Carolina’s poultry industry, which, it says, has an economic impact of more than $36 billion and produces more than 126,000 jobs. It talks about fried chicken as a Southern staple and about bringing together farmers, chefs, and the like.

The idea is seemingly benign and brought with good intentions. But there’s still some pink in the middle.

The idea, says a recent story in the News & Observer, was taken to the General Assembly by a Fayetteville resident who thought it might be a good idea for a fundraiser and, after all, the state had no such official event.

So lawmakers jumped straight into the grease.

Fayetteville already hosts the popular Dogwood and International Folk fests, and, the N & O story says, large poultry plants are nearby.

Thing is, tiny nearby Rose Hill already has the North Carolina Poultry Jubilee, and, as the festival website says, the town of about 1,600 is “home of the ‘World’s Largest Frying Pan,’ and headquarters for House of Raeford Farms, one of the nation’s largest poultry companies.”

The proposed “official” fried chicken festival gave the townspeople of Rose Hill something to chew on, and it mostly tasted of dry bird and spongy cartilage.

North Carolina lawmakers have had similar issues, maybe most notably a controversy over the state’s most iconic of recipes — barbecue.

A legislative move several years ago would have designated the Lexington Barbecue Festival the official such festival of North Carolina. The plan riled some eastern North Carolina pit masters, who will forever say their peppery, vinegar-based cue is far superior to the red vinegar sauce in the west. Legislators, in turn, made the Lexington party the “Official Food Festival of the Piedmont Triad Region of the State of North Carolina.”

Feelings were saved.

North Carolina agriculture, the state ag department says, contributes $84 billion to the state’s economy. We’re the top producer of sweet potatoes in the U.S. and, despite it all, are still the top producer of tobacco in the country.

We grow wheat, corn, grapes, strawberries, blueberries, watermelon, sorghum, soybeans, cotton and peanuts. We raise hogs, cattle, turkeys, and, yes, chickens, who also lay eggs, which we eat, too. North Carolina’s great bounty fuels and powers a number of businesses and entrepreneurial ventures. The state’s unquenchable thirst for craft beer, for instance, is sparking a push to grow barley, and North Carolina distillers emphasize their commitment to local corn, wheat and, in the case of Covington Vodka, sweet potatoes.

Excuse the phraseology, but festivals and events should grow organically and prosper according to market forces and people’s tastes. The thought of an official fried chicken festival is a happy idea for sure, and the ag department may have a role here, but lawmakers need to keep their hands off the deep fryer. Leave that to the cooks.