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Lawmakers defend name of Chicken Dinner Road

CALDWELL – An attempt by PETA to change the name of Chicken Dinner Road in Canyon County to Chicken Road has failed spectacularly.

A July 3 letter to Caldwell Mayor Garret Nancolas asking him to make the name change was soundly rejected. Even though the road is a county street and the city has no jurisdiction over it, Garret still made his feelings known unequivocally. 

Even if it was a Caldwell road, “no way, no chance I would ever consider this truly unbelievable request!” he wrote in a Facebook post. 

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, a national organization whose motto includes the words, “animals are not ours to eat,” asked for the road’s name to be changed “to one that celebrates chickens as individuals, not as beings to kill, chop up and label as ‘dinner.’”

The request didn’t go over well in Canyon County, which has 2,289 farms, far more than any other county in Idaho. 

On Jan. 27, Idaho lawmakers also weighed in on the matter and they overwhelmingly approved a resolution that honors and supports the road’s unique name. 

The 70-member Idaho House of Representatives on a voice vote almost unanimously voted to approve House Concurrent Resolution 25, which states that Chicken Dinner Road is of important historic value to Idaho and “that the official name for the former Lane 12 should always be ‘Chicken Dinner Road.’”

The resolution by Rep. Scott Syme, R-Caldwell, also explains how the road got its curious name, based on an old article from the Idaho Press Tribune. 

According to the resolution, Laura Lamb, who lived on the road with her husband, Morris, was famous for her fried chicken, apple pie and hot rolls. 

The Lambs were close friends of then-Gov. C. Ben Ross, and during dinner with the governor and his wife one day in 1930, Mrs. Lamb commented about the poor condition of the road. 

The governor told Lamb that if she could get the road graded, he would make sure it was oiled. 

Lamb did her part, the governor followed through on his promise and the words, “Lamb’s Chicken Dinner Avenue” were painted in big yellow letters on the road. 

According to HCR 25, “after school, children started chanting, ‘chicken dinner, chicken dinner,’ on their way to school” and the name Chicken Dinner Road stuck.

Syme, who was raised on a farm near Weiser and now produces hay and sheep on 43 acres in Caldwell, told Idaho Farm Bureau the effort by PETA to change the road’s name was the impetus for his resolution. But he said it goes way beyond just chickens.

“It’s a much larger issue,” he said. “People are coming here trying to change our history. This resolution is about honoring the historical significance of Chicken Dinner Road.”

“It is an interesting piece of Idaho history,” Syme told fellow lawmakers. “As many of you know, there was an effort to change the name of Chicken Dinner Road to Chicken Road and … that effort didn’t bother to find out why it was called Chicken Dinner Road.”

“This resolution is not about chickens,” he added. “This is about preserving history in our state.”

He said newcomers to Idaho always comment about how friendly Idahoans are and it’s true. “But when you try to change our history or events of historical significance, that just goes too far. I’m asking for a green light on preserving Idaho history.”

Rep. John Gannon, D-Boise, said he chuckled when he first read the resolution. “But this is very important and serious and something I think all governments and legislatures should do and that is preserve our history.”

After the vote was taken – only one or two ‘nays’ could be heard following a chorus of ‘ayes’ –  Speaker of the House Scott Bedke, a Republican rancher from Oakley, said, “The ‘ayes’ clearly have it and House Concurrent Resolution 25, shall we say, is a winner, winner, chicken dinner.”

The resolution now moves to the Senate.