LUMBERTON — The contestants had a chicken-pickin’ good time Saturday at the 71st annual Robeson County Agricultural Fair — and some charities were the winners.
The Rev. Leon Burden stole the show and the $500 first prize at the Chicken Pickin’ Contest, and then gave the money to aid the fight against youth violence.
The audience watched as Burden stripped a whopping 9.5 pounds off several chickens, which was the highest weight of the day, in the 5 minutes that was allowed. A two-year veteran of the contest, Burden said that he does nothing to prepare.
“I just show up and go,” Burden said.
The objective is for contestants to get as much meat off of a cooked chicken as possible in the time allowed, leaving the skin, bones and cartilage. The contestants “tenderized” the cooked chicken by slamming them against the table to break the bones.
The competition was organized into four rounds — elected officials from the county, pastors from local churches and then two rounds of regular folks, with the winners of each round advancing. The pastors’ winnings was to go to their church, the elected officials’ to a charity of their choice and the regular folks had the option of keeping the cash.
Burden donated the $500 to Colors of Life, a nonprofit that works to keep young people out of gangs.
The runner-up cash prize of $350 went to Rep. Charles Graham, who danced while he picked 8.3 pounds of chicken meat.
“I loved it and it’s for a good cause,” Graham said.
Graham donated his winnings to the American Red Cross.
“It’s my birthday so I’m going to tear that chicken up,” Myra Cummings said shortly before doing just that.
Cummings made it to the finals and took third place, which was a cash prize of $250, with 6.1 pounds.
Mountaire Farms, a chicken processing plant in Lumber Bridge and one of the largest private employers in the county, sponsored the contest.
“The first time I saw that I thought they were crazy,” said Mark Reif, the Community Relations manager for Mountaire Farms.
Mountaire Farms donated 150 3-pound chickens, and the Village Station restaurant cooked all of the chickens for the competition.
“It took us months to prepare for this event said,” Reif said. “Don’t worry, the chicken won’t be wasted.”
All of the shredded chicken will be donated to the Robeson County Humane Society to feed homeless cats and dogs.
“It was outstanding. It went great,” said Reif.
Across the fair in the Farm Bureau Livestock Arena, young people were showing their goats in 4-H Goat Show. Savanna Shepard, who is 12, took home the grand prize trophy with her goat Blaze.
“It felt good,” Shepard said. “I was excited.”
Shepard prepared for the show by exercising Blaze, who is 7 months old, on a treadmill and running him up and down hills.
“We want certain things. We don’t want them to be too heavy or too light,” said Ron Hughes, the judge for the show.
Hughes said that in the beginning of the round they teach the novice contestants who are 5- to 8-year-olds how to display their goats.
“For some of them, it’s their first time competing,” Hughes said. “We’re a little tougher on the older kids.”
The fair is open today from 1 to 8 p.m.
People who bring their church bulletin can get in free and enjoy the rides for free from 1 to 2 p.m. After that, during Univision Day, $20 will buy admission and unlimited rides. Univision is also sponsoring several Hispanic bands that will provide entertainment.
As it was on Saturday, the weather will be better than fair. It will be close to perfect, with sunny skies and highs in the mid-70s.
Reach Tomeka Sinclair at 910-416-5865