The town of Edison is among the Skagit Valley’s quaintest communities. It’s home to less than 250 people and a handful of independent local businesses, and is where famed broadcaster Edward R. Murrow attended high school. And each year on the final Sunday in February, it plays host to one of the shortest, silliest parades in America: the Edison Chicken Parade.
The Edison Chicken Parade, which takes place at 12 p.m. on February 26 along the town’s main thoroughfare, is an event where being fowl is greatly encouraged. Some participants bring actual chickens, while many more dress up as them.
The parade is part of the Edison Bird Festival, a Skagit Valley celebration of all things avian – excluding the flu, of course. The festival got started roughly a decade ago, when Jim and Lisa Kowalski – former Edison Café owners and current owners of Farm to Market Bakery – brainstormed with Wesley Smith and Andrew Vallee, who own Smith & Vallee Gallery.
The first part of the celebration, “FL#CK,” is a nearly month-long exhibit showcasing bird-related sculpture and art at Smith & Vallee. An artist’s reception was held February 4, and the gallery’s display concludes February 26 at 5 p.m.
The parade itself starts promptly at 12 p.m., lasts between 10 to 15 minutes and covers barely one-eighth of a mile. But for those who attend or participate, the memories last much longer.
The Edison Chicken Parade
To see the Edison Chicken Parade is to bear witness to the pleasurably-absurd.
Past participants have shown up from across Western Washington, including a Seattle man who dressed as Colonel Harland Sanders, the famous founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken.
Scott Mangold, an Edison resident who co-owns the town’s popular BreadFarm bakery, has traditionally roller-bladed down the street in a full-body, yellow-feathered chicken costume. Others dress in chicken masks and various bird-related garb. Some walk the route, while others pilot golf carts and even vintage cars.
While people generally outnumber the birds, there are plenty of them. Hens, roosters and even ducks are part of the parade, either sitting in caged coups on wheels, wandering on their own feet, or even sitting atop the backs of horses.
Charles Atkinson, an Edison resident who owns Tweets Cafe, says the parade almost ceased to be several years back. But local residents expressed a desire for it to continue due to its family-friendly wholesomeness, and it stuck around thanks to the organizing of Edison resident Tony Breckenridge.
The parade paused during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021, had a smaller, non-publicized occurrence in 2022, and this year returns at full squawk.
And unlike so many other public events these days, the chicken parade refreshingly retains a non-political, non-confrontational, small town American vibe that is nearly impossible to not enjoy.
“It has no controversy,” Atkinson says of the parade. “It’s something to be enjoyed and participate in without any kind of agenda, other than bring your kids and come dressed as chickens. Parents can come dressed as chickens. They can bring their chickens. They can dress their chickens up as their parents.”
Even if you dress as a chicken’s greatest arch-nemesis, Atkinson says, you are welcome here.
“You can come as Colonel Sanders,” he says. “There is no problem with that. Chickens are nice but they’re also delicious.”
Attending the Edison Chicken Parade
Parking for the event is limited due to Edison’s small size and parade route closures. The main recommendation is to park at Edison Elementary School and walk the short distance to stand along Cains Court, the street where the parade takes place.
Atkinson recommends coming early, say by 11 a.m., especially if you plan to march in the parade and need extra time to get dressed and staged with other participants. The parade starts around the Old Edison Inn and continues up the street a short distance past Edison’s other local businesses, many of which will be open for business.
Regardless of how you take in the Edison Chicken Festival, Atkinson says only one quality is truly necessary to have a great time: joy.
“Be prepared to be joyful,” he says. “The chickens are an excuse to be proud of where we are and who we are, and share with people who are also loving and kind.”