Editor’s Note: To celebrate the City of Gainesville turning 200 years old on Nov. 30, 2021, Gainesville Georgia Government is sharing interesting highlights from its centuries-old history. This is the fifth installment in a series, which will be featured monthly through November 2021 on gainesville.org and social media. For April, we present to you information spotlighting Gainesville as the "Poultry Capital of the World", including tidbits about the annual Spring Chicken Festival, respected leaders in the poultry industry and Poultry Park.
GAINESVILLE, Ga. (April 30, 2021) – Ask anybody in Gainesville-Hall County or greater North Georgia where you can find the "Poultry Capital of the World", and chances are they'll direct you to Gainesville, Georgia.
After the end of World War II in 1945, a visionary named Jesse Jewell (1902-75) started what's become the State of Georgia's largest agricultural crop – poultry. The billion-dollar-a-year industry has earned Gainesville the nickname, "Poultry Capital of the World", as its home to numerous poultry farms and plants.
According to the University of Georgia (UGA) Center for Agribusiness & Economic Development, and shared by the Georgia Farm Bureau, agriculture contributes approximately $73.3 billion annually to Georgia's economy, with broilers holding the No. 1 spot in the Top 10 Georgia Commodities By Value list – eggs coming in at No. 3.
Gainesville Spring Chicken Festival
Honoring its nickname as "Poultry Capital of the World", as well as the many poultry plants that call Gainesville-Hall County home, the City of Gainesville partners with poultry industry leaders annually to hold the beloved Spring Chicken Festival.
It was in April 2004 the City organized the inaugural Spring Chicken Festival, originally held in Roosevelt Square. Since then, the festival has become one of Gainesville's tastiest and most well-loved events, so much so it outgrew its original home and has been relocated to Lake Lanier Olympic Park to better accommodate the thousands who attend. Earning recognition as the "Official Chicken Cook-off for the State of Georgia", the Spring Chicken Festival is traditionally held the last Saturday in April and features cook-off contests, a Re-Hatched Art Market (all things repurposed), live entertainment and, of course, samplings of the best chicken around.
Out of an abundance of caution with the lingering coronavirus pandemic, City and poultry partners have agreed to postpone the 2021 Spring Chicken Festival, which is tentatively scheduled for Nov. 6 at Lake Lanier Olympic Park.
Leaders in the poultry industry
*Shared from the UGA College of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences
Born in March 1902 in Gainesville, J.D. "Jesse" Jewell grew up to revolutionize the poultry industry in Georgia by selling feed and baby chicks on credit. He bought them back at broiler size for market price. Because of the resulting high volume of chickens, the first broiler processing plant in Northeast Georgia was established in 1941.
Jewell served as the first president and board chairman of the National Broiler Council, president of the Southeastern Poultry and Egg Association, director of the Institute of American Poultry Industries and delegate to the 1951 Poultry Congress in Paris. He was chosen for the Poultry Hall of Fame of the Georgia Poultry Federation and presented the Sullivan Award for outstanding contributions to education in the South by Brenau College (now Brenau University).
Jesse Jewell Parkway, which runs through the heart of Gainesville, honors the pioneering businessman.
Learn more about Jewell and his contributions to the poultry industry here.
Abit Massey, president emeritus, Georgia Poultry Federation
Georgia Poultry Federation President Emeritus Abit Massey is a well-known and respected name in the poultry industry, having served as the Gainesville-based entity's president nearly 50 years from 1960-2008.
Massey was inducted into the Poultry Industry Hall of Fame in September 2019 after advocating for the poultry industry and working to expand research in the field. Today, the Georgia Poultry Laboratory Network sits on Abit Massey Way just off state Route 365.
Some of Massey's honors include the 1986 UGA Alumni Merit Award, the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association's 2012 Harold E. Ford Lifetime Achievement Award and the inaugural Medallion of Honor for Service to the UGA College of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences.
Mike Giles, president, Georgia Poultry Federation
Mike Giles serves as president of the Georgia Poultry Federation, a role which he assumed in 2009 after Massey's retirement. Before that, Giles had served as senior vice president of the federation since 2000.
Giles is well-versed in the industry as his family owned an agricultural business in his hometown of Unadilla in South Georgia.
Before joining the federation, Giles worked with the University of Georgia in Athens.
Poultry Park is the only public park that pays homage to Gainesville's significant place in the poultry industry. Look high in the sky to see the life-sized chicken that sits atop the 25-foot-tall marble obelisk monument.
A project spearheaded by poultry industry leaders and dedicated in 1977, the park is currently located at the corner of West Academy Street and Jesse Jewell Parkway (444 Jesse Jewell Parkway SW, Gainesville). The park is free to visit, pet-friendly and open year-round.
Learn more about the park here.