To say the poultry competition proved one of the hits of this year's show would be an understatement – it drew huge crowds into a setting not really geared up for poultry-mania. From outside the inconspicuous marquee appeared quite like the kind rented for a gentrified garden party. Inside was a pleasant mayhem.
Cages stacked four high created a raucous squawking wall around three sides of the marquee while its centre was dominated by an island of tables displaying eggs of every colour from very white to slightly creamy-white. As such, the scores upon scores of people who flocked in at any one time to gawk at the fabulous variety of birds were left with just a narrow passageway to shuffle along.
The cacophonous soundtrack was relentless: cockerels' cock-a-doodle-doing (which should really be spelled erh-hhhrrrr-rrrhhhh-errrhhhr), geese honking, an adorable white duck impersonating a wailing monkey, and a noise emanating from something I failed to locate, but can only imagine is half banshee. Marvelling spectators provided a chorus of 'look at that one' and yelps of parents warning kids with inquisitive fingers to 'Mind you don't get pecked!'
We progressed at a pace which suggested a member of Dublin Airport security might be at the end – so a walk which could easily be done in maybe six seconds in an empty marquee was empty took maybe 15 minutes – 25 minutes if you inadvertently bump into the owner of the Champion Bird, which is precisely what happened this Celt reporter.
Kelly Mairs emanated the aura of someone who had just won something special. Her hen, who she named Blackjack, would be heading up the N3 to Letterkenny with a big red rosette to confirm her spot at the top of the pecking order. Even to the novice eye, Blackjack is an absolute stunner.
“She's a silkie black frizzled poland. Frizzled just means that the feathers are that way,” Kelly says, indicating the plumage which look like they were tumble dried that morning. “Then the rest of these would be smooth,” she said nodding to the conventional birds' feathers.
Such is the frizzling, and the depth of black colouring it's hard to discern the actual bird underneath. Even its narrow head is burried beneath an extravagant explosion of jet black feathers.
One-year-old Blackjack came into Virginia carrying a little bit of form having impressed at the recent Ballyshannon Show.
“The last show I went to I got reserve with her, so we knew hopefully she would have a good shot today.”
Ciara Sweeney from Trim won has previously won Champion Bird at Virginia twice before. She had the pleasure of judging this year's competition and was hugely impressed by both the variety and the quality of the competition.
“Kelly's Poland was very clean, correct in all the ways,” Ciara explained of what caught her eye about Blackjack. “It was a really nice poland overall – correct colouring, no spots of white or anything, just a really good bird and in great condition as well.”
A fine result in her first outing to Virginia Show for a young competitor who has only taken up breeding her own birds in the last two years. No doubt Kelly will be back to Virginia, and maybe even in a bigger marquee!