Friday, May 27, 2005

Chicken Fest

Chicken Fest Key West is coming soon, the middle of June, 16th through 19th, but we'll not be taking part. The real Key West Chicken Lady, Katha Sheehan, announced some time ago that she wouldn't lend her name or her support to the event because of the missing Key West chickens, the ones that were supposed to be 'retired' to a 400-acre farm near Miramar. In a show of support for Katha, her employer, Janet won't take part either. She's a bit disappointed at that because she and her friend Sharon had a good time dancing (scroll down) in the parade last year (until her injured knee gave out). I myself wouldn't have done anything actively anyway, except to watch the parade when it happens, and we'll probably do that much this year.

This is Katha's statement, handed to each of the City Commissioners and to the press on the night that the Commission was issuing a proclamation declaring the chicken to be Key West's official bird (but only for the duration of Chicken Fest, a period of four days).

Tuesday May 3, 2005

To the Key West City Commission

I am Katha Sheehan, captain of the volunteer Rooster Rescue Team and owner of the Chicken Store, 1229 Duval.

When I first heard of this proposal to name the chicken the official bird of the City of Key West, I was thrilled. Chickens were brought here by some of the earliest settlers, and have served the human population long and well. They have earned this great privilege not by being beautiful and fragile, but the hard way, by living and dying for our benefit. It behooves us to honor them in this way.

But someone in this room has beytrayed the chickens. The City of Key West has for more than two years been sending captured neighborhood chickens out of town, telling us they are going to a "farm" which is a "paradise on earth" where they will "live out their days" eating bugs. I am here to tell you it is a lie.

On April 21 I took Bubba, a rooster given to me by former City Chicken Catcher Armando Parra, and went to the Gastell Farms property in Miramar, by the Broward county landfill. My goal was to give Bubba the retirement that all chickens dream of, running free in the woods. But as much as he called, amid the fumes of burning plastic, he could find no chicken retirement community to join. We returned to Key West.

I thought I had made a mistake or maybe Assistant City Manager John Jones had marked the wrong area on the plat. My husband, Roy Stone Jr., then went to see him and got directions that narrowed down the area. On April 29 he went there himself but he found no Key West chickens whatsoever. We are forced to conclude that someone has lied to us all these past two years.

What pains me the most is that I stood by and let it happen. One day I happened to be at the Wildlife Rescue station when the chickens were loaded for Miramar. I will never forget their screams and how they looked up to me out of the cage in the bed of the marroon pickup truck, as if calling, "What is to become of us? Where are we going?" It put me in mind of pictures I had seen from long ago, the faces looking out of boxcars.

I tried to follow, but the chicken truck eluded me. Unable to get away and explore its destination, I hoped for the best. I wanted to believe that the people who run for office in this town, and the people who work for City Hall, are people of good intentions, people of their word. But now I know. It was a lie, and somebody lied to us.

Government officials have special power, and lying is pernicious. How will we thrive, if we cannot trust at their word those who govern us? An official who gets away with a lie, and obtains power by it, becomes a tyrant and a predator. It must be stopped.

I cannot say who has betrayed our trust, but I will say this: unless this liar is exposed and eliminated from City Hall, I cannot condone the celebration of a ChickenFest. How can we dance in the streets, while the City deports its gypsy chickens to an uncertain fate?

I don't expect a grand jury to investigate the fate of some street chickens. I hope however that the press will want as badly as I do to discover the fate of our lost birds. And I am appealing to everyone in the USA who loves chickens and our Southernmost City, to boycott this festival and the City of Key West until the author of this sickening fraud is revealed and deposed.

Anyone interested in seeing our film of the"Paradise for Chickens--Not!!!" is invited to come to the Chicken Store or visit our website --

The city's response to this, given by Assistant City Manager John Jones, was that the chickens were safe and sound, and that he, Jones, would take anyone who cared to go to see them there himself -- once his foot was better.
Two weeks ago, when we went to our niece's wedding in Coconut Creek, Janet and I made another attempt to find the missing chickens. We had no success either. I asked some people who were on the site located on the map that Jones gave to Sheehan if they knew the man who supposedly owned the farm, one Danny Martinez. None of them heard of him. I asked if they knew anything about 'los gallos de Cayo Hueso', the Key West Roosters. Again, no recognition of what I was talking about. As I reported to Katha later, I found no evidence that there any roosters in the square mile surrounding the site Jones had marked on a map.

Chicken Fest, contrary to the belief of many who know that Katha Sheehan is the real Chicken Lady of Key West, is a marketing creation of the Market Share Company, the same people who organize Fantasy Fest. It's purpose, as is the case with so many other 'festivals' here, is to bring in more tourists. Celebrating chickens is merely a means to that end.

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