Aug 24, 2019 — Caledonia Day in Fort St. James was held at National Historic Site on Aug. 24. The chicken races took an unexpected turn which got the announcer in the lane to give them a little encouragement. Apart from the races, residents and visitors enjoyed their day with javelin throws, target shooting and the famous pie auction. (Aman Parhar/Caledonia Courier)

Fort St. James chicken races move online

The “world class chicken races” in northern B.C. can now be watched on the national historic site’s Facebook Page.

There is something about watching chickens race, and if you live in Fort St. James, that is definitely a yearly go-to event. But due to the global pandemic, fans will be watching the races online.

If you don’t know what chicken races are, here is how the National Historic Site in Fort St. James describes it:

“In lanes lined with chicken wire (of course), plucky birds with names like Rapid Rick race for the finish while crowds bet chicken bucks on the fleet-feathered winners. In an enthusiastic 15 minutes, the chickens run three to five races.”

Yes, all things chicken.

Guests to the chicken race pick the fastest fowl and receive “a pin-on winner’s button and bragging rights,” the historic site states on its website.

During the course of the race, Jim Williams, an interpreter for the historic site provides the much-loved live commentary.

But 2020 has been difficult, even for the feathered fowl. People can’t flock to the site and watch the chicken race, but with the help of technology and social media, Fort St. James National Historic Site are hosting the “world-class chicken races” on their Facebook page.

Williams calls his commentary old-school, but said that even though the pandemic has changed the feeling of having crowds cheering for the ‘plucky birds’, he is excited about using the internet to showcase it to broader audiences around the globe.

Lindsay Jennings’, resident of Fort St. James said her family enjoys the chicken races because “they are fun for the whole family.”

“On a regular year we tend to go to the historic site about once a week. My 4-year-old daughter loves the races because they are animals and are racing! We like to bet on our favorite chickens like Moose and Chicken Nuggets week after week.”

Another resident Lana Sabo said her favourite aspect of the races is meeting people.

“People from all over the world stop by to catch a race, so it is a guarantee to meet interesting people,” she said.

Bob Grill, Parks Canada Manager for the Fort St. James National Historic Site said the online shift of the chicken races was all developed by staff.

“All the people who edited the video are employees. We are so lucky that we have employees at the park with great skills,” he said.

Grill said the historic site is not fully open, so staff is working on online options to make “great” visitor experiences. Currently, the café at the site is open and audio tours are also available.

With files from Willa Crowley, summer intern with the Caledonia Courier

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