Week Eleven: Chicken Drops are the $h!t

On to my third and final Belize entry. It was our last Thursday in San Pedro, and my husband and I decided we wanted a night on the town, and perhaps a little flutter. Where better than at Wahoo Lounge’s ‘World Famous Chicken Drop’?

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This is what fame looks like

“But JC, what is a chicken drop?” I hear you ask.

Well the rules of chicken drop are simple. A well fed chicken is placed in a pen with a tiled floor. Each tile has a number, from 1-100, like so;

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The arena

Punters buy numbered tickets, drawn at random by the cashier, and whichever square the chicken ‘drops’ on is the winning number for that round.

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You’re betting on what?!

Oh, and the winner of the round has to clean up after the chicken, or forfeit a quarter of their winnings to whoever volunteers to clean the pen for them.

We arrived at 5.45pm to buy our tickets, as we’d heard that this was a popular event, and had been advised to get there early. The ticket booth didn’t open until 6pm, but already there was a line up. The bar was not air conditioned, and soon we were sweltering, but fortunately an enterprising barman started moving up and down the line taking drink orders. Rum punch was on a 2-4-1 special, but unfortunately an individual glass was twice as expensive here than anywhere else we’d been to previously, so we didn’t see any saving.

There were eight rounds in total; seven of which had a prize of $100, and one with a grand prize of $1,000. We bought two tickets for each round.

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Feeling lucky

Tickets purchased, we headed out to claim our spot by the pen. Most of the punters were tourists like ourselves, but there was at least one American expat among the throng who obviously took the drop very seriously. After reviewing his tickets, he started strategically placing corn on some of the squares. Intrigued, we started up a conversation with Mr. Expat, and he told us that he’d won several times in past drops. There was, he explained officiously, a ‘knack’ to it. So chickens go where there’s corn, eh? No shit.

Flitting amongst the tourist were a smiling Belizean girl of around seven, and her younger brother, still dressed in immaculate school uniforms. They were attempting, unsuccessfully, to sell mangoes and avocados. On spotting Mr. Expat, the boy grinned from ear to ear, and made a beeline for him. Mr. Expat clearly wanted none of the avocados, but the boy persisted relentlessly until the expat was driven back into the bar in exasperation, away from his prime viewing spot. Clearly deciding that this encounter constituted enough ‘selling’ for one evening, the kids dumped their baskets of fruit and proceeded to mingle with the tourists. I lost sight of them for a few minutes, and forgot all about them until suddenly a pair of small hands grabbed me around my waist, and a not so small voice shouted,

“‘Rawrr!!”

I’ll admit it, I jumped. I looked down at the girl beaming up at me, hands still clamped on my hips, her eyes shining with delight at successfully terrorising the gringo. I couldn’t help but smile back.

“You should give up selling mangoes, and charge people $5 a time to scare their friends,” I told her. “I think you’d be very successful.”

She frowned contemplatively as she considered the merit of my business venture, then shook her head decisively. Clearly she didn’t think this would be a profitable enterprise.

“Watch. I’m going to go and scare that person over there now,” she told me. And off she skipped to give someone else the same treatment. Later she was back, having apparently taken a shine to my dress, and we started talking about the chicken drop. I commented on Mr. Expat’s corn, and how I didn’t think it was very fair.

“Oh,” she confided. “My brother already moved his corn.”

I looked at the pen, and saw she was telling the truth. The corn was now on the other side of the pen. I gave her brother, hovering shyly a few feet away from his sister, a thumbs up. These kids were alright.

It was time for the chicken drop to start. Our MC for the night welcomed us and explained the golden rule. We could cheer, we could shout, we could sing, cluck or dance, but there was to be no touching the chicken once it was in the pen. He pulled out a member of the crowd to be the ‘Chicken Fluffer’, and fed them the line that they needed to shout;

“Chicken Security, bring out my chicken!”

Honeymoon (174)

The chicken’s safety is taken very seriously

Chicken Security brought out the first chicken, unimaginatively named Pollo, and handed her to the Fluffer. Before putting Pollo in the pen, the Fluffer had to raise the chicken up to the crowd, wave her around a bit, and blow on her bum for good luck;

Honeymoon (176)

Fluffer #3 demonstrates the bum blowing ritual with the aid of rooster, Big Johnson

And we were off! The crowd started cheering and calling to Pollo, trying to encourage her closer to their square. Given that they’re working with chickens, the organisers can’t always work to schedule. However, if a chicken is taking too long to produce the goods, a second cry goes up;

“Chicken Security, bring me the back-up chicken!”

At this point two chickens are put in the pen to speed up the process.

Now if you happen to find yourself at a chicken drop, bear in mind that watching the crowds is often as entertaining as watching the chicken. Given that it was spring break, there were a number of American college/university (I’m never quite sure which) students there. Some of them were on volunteer programs, and some were just there to party, but somewhere along the line a group of frat boys had seemingly adopted an Australian backpacker to join them in their game of dares. The more inebriated they got, the more outrageous the dares became, until some bright spark had the idea of ‘sampling’ the chicken droppings.

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The Australian lost the dare. As we waited for the next round, more eyes were on the Australian than the chicken. Would he go through with it?

Finally the round ended, and one of the frat boys asked the winner for the tissue holding the droppings. We looked up, only to see the Australian sensibly running down the beach, far away from Wahoo’s. I really didn’t blame him, and thought that was the end of it, until halfway through the next round when I heard sounds of disgust coming a little way behind me. I turned around. The Australian had returned, and, well… Suffice to say I felt compelled to buy the lad a beer.

It started to rain, and the chicken drop was temporary adjourned as most people crowded into the bar for shelter. Remembering how hot it had been in there, my husband and I stayed outside to soak up the warm rain. At which point the children reappeared, seemingly concerned for our mental well-being.

“Why are you standing out here?”

“Where we’re from it sometimes rains for a whole month. We’re used to it, and this rain is nice and warm,” we reassured them.

The children nodded sagely.

“Because where you come from, it rains ice,” the boy stated, in a matter-of-fact manner.

“Sometimes,” we conceded.

VERDICT: The chicken drop was great novelty, even though we didn’t win anything. If I were to do it again, I would probably only buy tickets for the first few rounds up to and including the $1,000 drop (which was situated in the middle of the rounds rather than at the end). This is because the crowds thin out considerably after the $1,000 drop, and it’s a bit less fun. Also, if you’re no longer interested in reliving your college days, don’t go on Spring Break.

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