The Fontana Hen Derby was started in 1936 by Harry Stevens.
The inspiration for Harry to start the Hen Derby was supposedly from the hen named “Belle of Fontana” who laid a record-breaking 325 eggs in one single year!
Fontana is the only city in the world with such a contest. Keeping it going is important for our city’s historical traditions.
In the beginning, actual hens laid eggs in a month's time, their egg count was then counted, and the hen who laid the most eggs was named the main winner. Since there were hundreds of chicken/egg ranches in Fontana when the contest began, it was easy to find egg-laying chickens (and their owners) to participate in the competition.
Now, however, there is a lack of chicken ranches, and so we will be using playing cards to determine how many eggs your chicken has laid.
This year the Hen Derby will be sponsored by the United Steelworkers Local 8599. More than 40 years ago, the United Steel Workers Local 8599 was chartered into the United Steelworkers organization by Kaiser Steel. To this day, there are still more than 10,000 steelworkers in Fontana; you will see steelworkers at Kaiser Permanente and at steel mills and train yards in Fontana.
Specifically, Local 8599 represents the classified employees of the Fontana Unified School District. These are your maintenance workers, food service workers, secretaries, and custodians, just to name a few. Anyone working in the district who is not a teacher, manager or administrator is a classified employee.
You may purchase your tickets and name your hen now through April 30, 2019. The Hen Derby will start on May 4. Winners will be announced on June 1 during the Fontana Days Festival.
The prize money is the following: First place will win $300, second place will win $200, third place will win $100, last place will win $50, and if your chicken "dies," you win $25.
Weekly egg-laying counts will be announced in the Herald News, and you may also look on the USW Local 8599 Facebook page for counts, as well as see for yourself our window where our “Steelworkers Hen House” is and watch the hens move along the “grass” in our front windows. The United Steelworkers Local 8599 Union Hall office is located at 16981 Foothill Boulevard, Suite A-1 in Fontana.
All money raised through the Hen Derby, after winners collect their share, will go for scholarships to local graduating seniors.
To purchase and name your “hen,” please go to the United Steelworkers Local 8599 Union Hall office or call Dawn Dooley at (909) 434-3778.
Please help to keep this tradition of the Hen Derby alive AND help some local students go to college.
(Dawn Dooley is the vice president of USW Local 8599 and a 30-year resident of Fontana.)