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Visitors to the West Tennesse State Fair have flocked to the 4H Chicken Shack for the last 60 years


Visitors to the West Tennessee State Fair have flocked to the 4H Chicken Shack for the last 60 years for chicken halves and pork chops.

"In 1962, when Madison County 4H adult leaders decided to start the for each chicken shack. I was in my first year, four h in sixth grade…I couldn't work in the chicken shack until I was in high school," said Former 4Her Linda Smith.

For many volunteering at the Chicken Shack has become a family tradition over the years,

"I grew up around chick shack, you know, watching dad… he worked a couple of days a week until we were, you know, got to age and we were up to fourth grade. And it was time for us to go in 4H, he was basically full time," Said Lead Chicken Cook Harold Cothran.

"It means a lot to me because our family is a part of 4h my sisters are in it, and so I get to make good memories with them. It's very nice," said recent high school graduate Makaya Ralph.

The chicken shack has seen some changes over the years- the latest- the “pit” was replaced this year by a professional-grade rotisserie cooker.

Cothran said, “They're going to be naturally more juicy than the ones that we do on the pit. And it showed, you know, so far, you know, the chicken has been great.”

A lot has changed at the Chicken Shack over the last 60 years, but the mission is still the same, supporting 4H.

“All of the money that's raised from the 4H Chicken Shack, it goes to support the kids and all their endeavors they do throughout the year where there's a camp that they're interested in. Project work are for its clubs as well as any events or activities that need to be supported throughout the year,"Dr. Kane Reeves UT Extension Agent said.

For every hour a student works at the Chicken Shack they earn 10 dollars to use for 4H activities.

"It really means a lot to me because I go on a lot of trips," said Senior Joseph Herron. "I don't think I would never have this experience without 4H. That's what's so great about it. It's like I'm paying for my trips," he said.

“We so we call it sweat equity. So it teaches them for what you want. You have to work for," Dr. Reeves said

Every year the Chicken Shack sells over 4200 chicken halves and raises about 15-thousand dollars for Madison County 4H.

"People ask me, why do I do this,?"Cothran said, "I want to help my own community. So I'll try to do this to improve our community through youth organizations I belong to."

Even those that fly the coop come back every year to support.

“We moved away from Jackson ten years ago. And now we just come back to eat instead of to work. But we still come back… the taste of the chicken is just as good as ever," Smith said.

4Hers of all ages are excited that the chicken shack has lasted for 60 years

Dr. Reeves said, "I think it's pretty awesome that something that has survived 60 years is a meaningful experience, especially for youth. And people who started it had the same mission in mind that we do today."

4Hers plan to continue the Chicken Shack tradition for many more years.

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