Chowan County Fair, Selective Breeding and Project Runway
Last year at the Chowan County Fair, Ryan and I were dumbfounded with how many different types of ducks and chickens there were on display. This year, we brought both cameras specifically to document all the birds. Ryan will upload a complete set of poultry to his Flickr site, but for now here’s a small sampling.
Photos mostly by Ryan Somma
Ryan and I were surprised by all the chickens, but we shouldn’t have been. It’s just another example of “selective breeding” which is far from a new concept. Man has been making made use of the technique for thousands of years to domesticate plants and livestock and it’s produced a lot of results. Just look at all the dog breeds! Roughly 150 years ago, as Charles Darwin formulated his theory on the much slower, natural version of the process, pigeons caught his attention. How from plain grey rock doves one could breed fancy pigeons like barbs and tumblers and frillbacks and fantails.
But I do have a confession. As I strolled between the aisles and aisles of chickens, my thoughts were not of selective breeding or Darwin. Instead I was thinking of… Project Runway!
I’m still quite a fan of the show and I knew that when I got home that night a new episode would be waiting for me on MyLifetime.com. In past seasons, the contestants were taken to a destination, armed with a camera and instructed to find inspiration for a garment. In Season 2, they were strolling the streets of New York City. Season 5, they visited the New York Botanical Gardens. Season 6, the Los Angeles’ Getty Center.
As I wandered amoung the chickens, I was struck by all the colors– Gretchen Jones could still find the tans and greys she seems to favor. April could find her black. If Michael C wanted to continue to make pumpkin orange pants, he could find his color in the breast and the eyes of one of the hens. There was even a rooster whose teal tail would compliment that unfortunate ocean dress of Ivy’s.
Some feathers appeared matte. Some appeared shiny. Some were iridescent for more glam. There were sleek chickens with clean silhouettes and poofy chickens reminiscent of the Siriano/March couture look in Season 4. There were chickens with dramatic headdresses, chickens with feathered boots–chickens to inspire accessories for a complete head to toe look. Finally, there were no shortage of intricate patterns and textures for designers like Mondo to tackle.
“They should bring the designers here!” I thought.
Poultry at a county fair would certainly be a humble destination and admittedly, there are some odors I don’t think are usually found in Parsons. But I bet some absolutely amazing designs could stem from these small, straw-lined cages.
I’d love to see what the Project Runway competitors could come up with inspired by chickens…and selective breeding.