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Chicken chariot races are finding a winning formula for popularity at the Plattsmouth Harvest Festival.

At last week’s annual festival that celebrates the harvest season, there were 27 entries in this relatively new event, according to spokeswoman Christine MacLellan.

“That is more than last year,” she said. “It is definitely growing in popularity.”

There were also dozens milling about and cheering on their favorite racers.

The race is quite simple. It involves racing live chickens through 8-foot long tunnels made out of chicken wire. Each chicken pulls a handmade, lightweight “chariot” and must reach the finish line with that chariot in place through that wire to be considered for prizes.

Some of the entrants brought their own chickens, while the others rented chickens on site.

Three chickens raced at the same time per heat.

Some of the chickens got confused – or lost – and ran back to where they started (oops). There were some that reached the finish line but without their chariots (too bad). A few simply sat in the middle of the wire perhaps a little scared of the noisy crowd (chicken).

One chicken that wasn’t intimidated was “Rainbow,” owned by Mary McConnell of Shenandoah, Iowa. Rainbow, a noticeably pretty pink chicken, won last Saturday’s race for the second year in a row as McConnell kept shaking Rainbow’s food cup for encouragement.

“I shake her food (cup) every day,” she said.

Alexa Abercrombie of Plattsmouth coached her chicken, “Pearl” to a second-place finish.

“She’s very feisty,” Abercrombie said of Pearl.

Kenny Malchow of Plattsmouth, who entered at the last moment, saw his chicken finish third.

Apparently, Malchow wants to finish higher next time.

“I’m going to practice and get them used to having people around,” he said.

Kentucky Fried Chicken donated prize money and meals for the winners. First-place prize money was $50 and a 10-piece bucket of chicken, second-place prize money was $30 and a three-piece dinner and third-place prize money was $20 and a three-piece dinner.

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