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By Dean Manning / Staff Writer

Downtown London will turn into chicken central as the 17th annual World Chicken Festival kicks off Thursday night.

Broad Street from 3rd to 8th Street will be closed at 5 p.m. today and Main Street will be closed at 9 a.m. Thursday to allow for the setup of the rides and booths

Ken Harvey, the festival coordinator, said some of the rides have been moved from their traditional space, though they will remain in the area around Broad Street.

“With the parking garage construction, we lost one of our big lots, but we have fewer games and we have some of the other county-owned lots to make up for the space,” Harvey said.

At 5 p.m. Thursday the festival will open covering Main Street and Broad Street. Harvey said the festival will be open until 11 p.m. Thursday, 10 a.m. until midnight Friday and Saturday and noon until 5 p.m. Sunday.

Parking will be available on both ends of town with trolleys providing shuttle service to and from the event.

“The trolleys will make the loop every 30 minutes,” Harvey said.

The parade will begin at 11 a.m. Saturday morning with Mr. Basketball 2006 Walt Allen, who helped the Cardinals to the 2005 state championship, serving as grand marshall. Harvey said the theme of the parade will be hometown heroes.

“Though Walt will be the grand marshall, the hometown heroes can apply to anyone including police, firefighters, or the National Guard members who will be going to Iraq,” Harvey said.

The parade will begin at 16th Street and continue down Main Street to the Carnaby Square parking lot.

The headline entertainment will be Saturday when country music singer Eddie Raven takes to the stage. The entertainment will feature country, gospel and even blues with local bands such as The Cornbread Mafia and The Disneys performing. The blues will be featured Thursday night when The Fatdaddy Band takes the stage.

Sunday will start with a nondenominational church service at 10 a.m. and feature a full slate of gospel music.

The world’s largest skillet will be turning out the fried chicken in the Marymount parking lot. The chick-olympics will take place at 6 p.m. Friday at Mill Street Park.

More information is available at www.chickenfestival.com or by calling 878-6900.

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