Sunnyland Stomp

Chickens, art and everything in between


A few years ago, when our hens celebrated their first birthday, we held a party in the backyard for them complete with platters of deviled eggs, fried chicken, a lawn game called “Flickin’ Chicken,” and, last but not least, a race between the four feathered fowl.

In retrospect, we didn’t do that great of a job when it came time for the ladies to show off their athleticism. First off, we put ribbons of various colors around their necks to differentiate them, and the ribbons either came loose or, in the case of one hen that was trying to get it off her neck, almost choked them to death. We also had no structure to the race, and depended on the fact that their hunger for scratch—which was being freely distributed at the finish line—would lead the poultry to glory. We were wrong, and the race has never been repeated.

I hadn’t thought about reviving the competition until I read about the latest addition to the Sunnyland Stomp, the annual mid-July event in Bellingham’s Sunnyland neighborhood that features art, music and everything in between—including, evidently, a chicken race.

According to the “Great Chicken Race” FAQs on the press release accompanying the Stomp shout-out, the gathering is intended for “chicken owners who feel their particular chicken is exceptionally talented and capable of running the chicken race gauntlet faster than the others.” Simple obstacles—a wide ramp, a hoop, a large tunnel and a short fence—will be part of the race, and owners can encourage their hens or roosters via verbal calls, the tossing of feed, physical signals or what have you.

I’m all for a Mayor’s Arts Award-winning event such as the Sunnyland Stomp to host an event of this complexity, but I do wonder if they know exactly what they’re in for. I haven’t decided yet if I’ll cart my new wicked-quick Australorps to the early afternoon race at Sunnyland Park, but I do know it’ll be worth a visit to check it out.

If you’re not as obsessed with chickens as I am, don’t be led astray by the preceding bullet points of this story. Just like every other Sunnyland Stomp, the July 13 event’s main focus will be on the creativity of those who live in the neighborhood’s nexus.

Twenty makeshift “galleries”—mainly in residents’ backyards and front yards—will be up and running, and those who peruse them can expect to find everything from contemporary folk art (FishBoy) to kinetic sculptures (Kitts Metal Works), screen-printed clothing (Red Boots Design), paintings and pottery (Color Pot Gallery), birth art (Bellingham Birth Center), functional metal art (Mishmash Manor), woodwork and textiles (Blue House Gallery and Garden), and others.

Those who hunger for more than visual art won’t leave unsatisfied, either. Artisan beer samples from Grant Street Brewing will be paired with food samples from Chef David Wood at Artisan Revival, and the culinary geniuses behind Ciao Thyme—who happen to live in Sunnyland—will offer pizzas fresh from their backyard oven on Iron Street. Forever Summer 2, on Humboldt Street, will feature shaved ice, live music by Holly Swanson and friends, and art by Tammy Findlay, Genevieve Gonska, and Amy Jones.

For a full listing of places to visit during the afternoon and into the evening, go to the group’s website and get a clearer picture of where you’d like to stop during the course of the Sunnyland Stomp (maps will also be available at each gallery during the event).

It might also be time to start training your chickens to run a little faster and jump through a hoop. Oh, and if I were you, I’d leave the ribbons off their necks. It’ll only slow them down.

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