I don’t know if the Ostrich Festival in Chandler, Arizona will become an annual destination, but it was good to at least check it out once.
I was surprised that an annual event that is expected to draw about 300,000 over the weekend really didn’t have an awful lot to do with ostriches. Apparently it was a big agriculture business back in the early 1900s, with the city founder, Dr. Alexander Chandler – a veterinarian – raising birds and selling feathers for up to $250 per pound.
Ostriches were certainly the novel ag enterprise 15 to 20 years ago in Canada, although producer numbers have dwindled considerably. And that must be the case here in Arizona. I only saw about six birds at the festival. One of the big draws was the ostrich races which pitted two birds, each one pulling a chariot with driver, against each other running around a short oval track. They had a series of heats, but we didn’t stay for the final race for the day.
I’m guessing birds that didn’t win ended up at the ostrich burger stand further along in the games and food stand area.
It is the ostrich festival in name, but really it is just a very well attended early spring fair and midway. They did have a tent with a giant pig…and for $1 admission I couldn’t resist a look. Not sure what breed it was. I don’t think I have seen a hog breed with fairly long hair and a black belt. At close to 1300 pounds Harley was a big boar. And I don’t blame him for not getting up for visitors. It was a hot day….
So that was amazing and then across the road was the giant horse…. a 2,000 pound Big Joe gelding which I am guessing was a Percheron. Again for $1 admission I couldn’t resist. You don’t see big horses like that unless you go to some draft horse event like a country fair or the Calgary Stampede. He was a big horse and a nice looking horse, and he certainly amazed a few people who aren’t familiar with seeing heavy horses.
But that was about it for the Ostrich Festival, for me. Oh, if you were hungry, or had kids, or were just interested in midway rides, magicians, face painting, stunt motorcycle riders, duck races, shark encounter, birds of prey show or a range of musical acts you could certainly fill your day. There was supposed to be a tiger show, but it was cancelled because the truck broke down.
It was a very nice festival but I don’t think you should go expecting to get a contract to raise ostrich. Now if your dream was to be an ostrich chariot driver that’s a different story.
Lee Hart is editor of Cattleman’s Corner based in Calgary. Contact him at 403-592-1964 or by email at [email protected]