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  • Writer's pictureEric Elkins

Ode: Chicken Fight Fest at Elitch Gardens

On paper, a summertime chicken and whiskey festival sounds amazing and awful, delicious and dangerous. In real life, it’s all of that and more. And moving the event to Denver’s urban amusement park seriously amped up the possibilities for chaos and calamity.

It’s my favorite night of the year.

My pals and I have made Chicken Fight our annual boys’ extravaganza year after year, gathering a posse, rolling in deep and strong, girded to conquer. We arrive ready to gobble alllll the chicken, primed to knock back samples of bourbon and an array of full-on cocktails. It’s our edible Everest. The key is to balance the bites with the beverages, because it’s way too easy to get ahead of yourself with the liquor as you amble from booth to booth, looking for that next mini fried chicken sandy or spicy drumette.

We love eating and drinking our way through the night, stopping in at the dozens of restaurant booths and spirits kiosks — it’s like a self-contained bar crawl without worrying where you last left your credit card. It’s the unhealthiest and most delicious progressive dinner you’ve ever attended, and — inevitably — our boys start to peel off and slow down as the night progresses, bellies full of fried food and brains muddled by bourbon.

We all carry Pepcid.

The new venue —with its rollercoasters and spin rides and winding pathways — makes the event more spread out and less crowded, meaning you’re rarely queued up for long in front of a popular food booth. And you have the tantalizing possibility of eating fried chicken and wearing it at the same time — regurgitated and released in a wide arc as a coaster full of festivalgoers twists and turns overhead.

But the best, best, best thing (for me) about Chicken Fight Fest is the family reunion vibe. Because visiting all those booths — full of chefs and servers, bartenders and booze reps — means reconnecting with industry peeps I haven’t seen in months or years.

I can’t fully express my deep joy in seeing those familiar faces outside their restaurants and having fun on a perfect summer night. It’s a full-on lovefest, with bear hugs, quick catchups, and, of course, shots all around. The food and drink are awesome, but for me it’s all about the surprise cameos, the “holy shit, I’ve missed you!” moments, and that pure, loving happiness to be spending time with so many of my favorite peeps in the whole wide world — ones who go out of their way on the reg to make me feel at home at their establishments.

Yeah the food crushes it, and the drinks are plentiful, but the people are what make Chicken Fight Fest my everything is awesome night of the year.

And, guess what? When I mentioned to my pals at DiningOut Events that I’d be writing this ode to Chicken Fight Fest, they offered up a promo code to my readers. Strut over to and use promo code Denverlicious20 for 20% off all ticket tiers until June 30, 2023!

If you see me there, let’s get drunk and suffer the meat sweats together!

Cluck yeah.

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