September 27, 2023

The Derry Agricultural Fair has kicked off festivities for another year, but is missing some of its feathered friends.

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture has banned poultry and eggs from fairs across the state for another year because of high numbers of bird flu cases in the state. The ban also includes fake feathers because of the possibility of the manufacturer using real feathers.

Because bird flu does not get passed to other types of livestock, the fair will still feature cows, pigs and other animals.

Organizers of the Derry Agricultural Fair didn’t let the ban stop them from — in their own way — including chickens, one of the more popular birds in the fair’s showmanship competitions.

“Unfortunately, this is not our first go-around with avian influenza,” said Tina Danser, 47, poultry superintendent of the Derry Agricultural Fair. “We’ve had multiple years to perfect a poultry display without having birds present at the fair.”

Danser said showmanship is a large part of the fair. Exhibitors ages 8 through 19 sit for a one-on-one interview with a judge to present their relationship with their chosen animal.

Competitors are tested on their knowledge of the animal and the breed of the animal. They present a mock physical examination of the animal to point out what a doctor would look for when assessing the animal, Danser said.

Danser and one of her co-workers came up with the idea of making the poultry category of the competition available online.

“We’re trying to make it so that the exhibitors can still show their projects and still educate the public about poultry,” Danser. “(With the virtual option) the kids will have an opportunity to show the judge their knowledge about their breed of bird and how they handle that bird without having to put anybody at risk of being exposed to avian influenza.”

Danser said that while nobody has taken advantage of the opportunity, chickens are not the only birds eligible for the showmanship competition. Turkeys, pigeons and geese are also able to be entered.

As an act of appreciation for the banned chickens, fair organizers acquired a mechanical chicken display that makes automated clucks.

When fairgoers press a button, the mechanical birds tell jokes and play music. Every 30 minutes, the chatty birds make jokes on their own and sing, technically making the Derry Agriculture Fair “the only fair in Pennsylvania with chickens.”

Haley Daugherty is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Haley at 724-850-1203 or

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