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For the birds: Poultry show comes to Portage this weekend

September 25, 2018

Chicks and ducks and geese are scurrying to Portage for the weekend.

The Wisconsin International Poultry Show will bring 2,500 domesticated birds of varying species and breeds to the Columbia County Fairgrounds, in one of the nation’s most prestigious and longstanding poultry competitions and exhibitions.

“We’re having a big show,” said Pardeeville area poultry farmer Airling Gunderson, superintendent of the show, which has been held in Wisconsin for about 50 years, and has been held in Portage since 2004.

“Big show” applies in a number of different ways.

For one thing, the birds have, in recent years, tended to be on the large side.

“We see a lot of large chickens and ducks,” Gunderson said. “I think the backyard poultry trend is prompting that, too – raising large chickens so you can have your own eggs and show your birds.”

Two breeds of chickens, in particular, will be spotlighted.

The black bantam Wyandotte is the spotlight breed this year. This is a black-feathered bird with a red comb that runs close to the head, so the comb is less susceptible to freezing in cold weather, Gunderson said.

And, Americauna Alliance International is holding its show in conjunction with the Wisconsin International Poultry Show – featuring chickens that lay blue eggs. Even now, Gunderson said, Americauna exhibitors are being advised to collect their eggs for competition in the show.

There are no worries this year about bird flu. An epidemic two years ago resulted in the show’s cancellation.

There will, however, be no swap area inside the exhibition space this year, Gunderson said, just to make things a little less hectic for the judges and others during a crowded show

The show won’t be entirely for the birds.

Junior exhibitors up to the age of 18 are also invited to strut their stuff in a speaking contest, the Avian Quiz Bowl and the annual Pullet Surprise (say it out loud) competition, where the best essays, poems and jokes are eligible for top honors – as long as the entries spotlight birds. Topics include:

“Why I Want to Raise Exhibition Poultry.”“Raising Poultry – It’s a Family Affair.”“My Most Memorable Moment in Poultry.”“Exhibition Poultry: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.”

Gunderson said the Columbia County Fairgrounds are an ideal location, because of three conveniently-located exhibit halls adjacent to each other, and because of Portage’s location along several well-traveled roads, including three interstate highways.

“All roads lead to Portage,” he said. “And I think the Portage businesses appreciate it when we come to town.”

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