Published in The Bellingham Herald on Feb. 29, 2016

Just past noon, the “arch nemesis” of all chickens walked slowly down the middle of Cains Court. In his trademark white suit and black clip-on bow tie, Colonel Harland Sanders knew one thing for sure.

“I’m going to be in a lot of people’s Facebook postings,” he said.

Sanders, portrayed by 55-year-old Seattle resident David Jensen, was one of many interesting sights at Edison’s annual chicken parade Sunday, Feb. 28, in this tiny Skagit County town.

How exactly the chicken parade started seems unclear.

Scott Mangold, co-owner of local bakery BreadFarm, said it started with two businesses holding a bird festival to drum up excitement during slow winter months.

Another local said it started as a funeral procession for a chicken that belonged to Edison Elementary School.

Regardless, the parade has become an attraction that draws people — many dressed as chickens — from across Western Washington, even though the entire event along Edison’s humble downtown lasts less than 10 minutes and covers less than 1/8th of a mile.

Mangold, who roller-bladed down the street in a yellow chicken suit, was surprised by the growing turnout, especially since the only advance publicity consisted of a Facebook event post.

“It’s a very short parade,” he said. “I think, ‘How could they possibly come back another year?’ But there’s more chicken hats, more people in garb; there’s definitely more people watching. So, something about it grabs the heartstrings.”

Mangold said the event is probably Edison’s second busiest, just behind the last school day before Halloween, when local children march through town in their costumes.

At this year’s parade, the chicken costumes seemed to outnumber the amount of actual chickens being paraded.

The road’s shoulder was lined with onlookers, their phones and cameras at the ready. They wore rubber chicken heads, white knit caps with red rooster combs, and chicken suits extending comb-to-talon.

Mangold’s costume sprang from a drag race he had several years ago with a local café owner, hoping to draw more interest for the parade. About eight people showed up to watch the two roller blade through the center of town in plumed suits. Mangold lost.

“Now, I’m just trying to get mileage out of it,” he said. “Because how often do you get to wear a chicken suit?”

During the parade there are, of course, actual chickens.

Some sat caged in the backs of golf carts, while others rode the backs of horses.

There also were roller-blading, bike-riding youths in full chicken regalia, and a black Packard with white-walled tires, driven by a man in a chicken costume. At one point, he stopped the car, opened the door, and wiggled his talons to the crowd before driving on.

Ferndale’s Layla Trombel and Clarissa Calleson brought their chickens, Annabelle and Emma, for the first time this year.

The two keep their fowl friends — 1-year-old Old English Game Bantams — as indoor pets. The chickens wear specially made diapers and even watch TV, although the two women are adamant that when watching cooking shows involving poultry, they shield their chickens’ eyes.

They also made sure to keep their chickens away from Jensen’s Colonel Sanders, who — for the record — can’t really blame the chickens.

“I tried to ask a couple of them what they were doing for dinner tonight, but I got no response,” he said.