Fine Feathered Fest

So it's not exactly the Kentucky Derby -- hell, it's not even the dog track -- but bets are on that the ostrich races, a featured event at the 14th annual Chandler Ostrich Festival, are bound to amuse.

"The races are definitely the festival's biggest highlight," says Craig Kimmel of CK Event Enterprises, the festival's producer.

And apparently the bumbling, flightless bird has its share of fierce competition; it's not unusual for pigs, sheep and even camels to get in on the action. Indeed, it's a race of biblical proportions -- the ostriches run nine times throughout the three-day festival.

But why . . . ostriches?

Chandler, once a national leader in ostrich ranching, raised the birds for their stylish, sought-after plumes. The Chandler Chamber of Commerce created the event in 1989 to celebrate the city's distinctive history.

And what better way to venerate a city's noble past than with a big, juicy bite of an ostrich burger? Or, perhaps, a nibble of some ostrich jerky? In Ostrich Alley, along with countless festival souvenirs, a variety of ostrich foodstuffs, including fresh emu eggs and ostrich meat, will be available for purchase.

Another festival attraction is the ostrich parade, which gets the celebration rolling on Saturday, March 9. The parade starts at 10 a.m. and runs south from Ray Road and Arizona Avenue to Frye Road, ending at Folley Park.

"I think our musical acts will be another big draw to the festival," says Kimmel. With free entertainment on two stages, the event will not only feature an array of local talent, but national acts as well, including seasoned rockers Starship and Foghat.