LONDON, KENTUCKY (FOX 56)– Recently, a young man from Chicago set out on a mission to visit one attraction in all 50 states before he turns 21 later this year. Kiwanis D. Flores says he knew right away that his Kentucky stop would be the first KFC restaurant in Corbin.
Flores enjoyed his stop in Corbin and tasted his first piece of Kentucky Fried Chicken.
“So good,” he said. “I will definitely be having it again.”
Tens of thousands of people do the same thing each year, going out of their way to see the place where Colonel Harland Sanders perfected his fried chicken recipe in the 1930s.
Each September, they celebrate his pluck 15 miles up the road in London at the World Chicken Festival.
And one of the highlights of the 4-day event is the Colonel Sanders Lookalike Contest. Men in white suits walk through the crowds, telling everyone, “I’m Colonel Sanders.”
They’re pulling legs, of course. Harland Sanders died in 1980. But they’re certainly Colonel clones.
Contest Coordinator Kelly Burton said, “We like to call them our colonel ambassadors. A lot of them will participate in other contests throughout the week. They’ll mingle throughout the crowd. Who knows how many hundreds of selfies they will take?”
This year, nine men and one boy entered the contest. Most of them came from other states, such as North Carolina, Michigan, Tennessee and West Virginia. The lookalikes say they can go anywhere in the world and get recognized.
Robert Cathers of Louisiana said, “I was walking along the levy in New Orleans (a few years ago) when a homeless person, a wino, was lying on a bench and raised up and said, ‘Good Morning Colonel,’ and I knew it was true.”
Many of the contestants say they just put on the white suit and a string tie, and trim their goatee and they feel ready to go.
Others, like Johnny Miller of Corbin, spend hours watching old videos of Sanders, learning to mimic his walk and style of talk. Miller has portrayed the colonel for KFC at events all over the world.
This year, the youngest contestant was a 5-year-old boy from Corbin. He won third place and $100.
Miller took second ($150) and Cathers was a repeat winner, taking home $250. But none of them do it for the money.
“We just have a lot of fun,” Miller said. “And it beats hanging out in pool halls.”
Another feature of the festival is the world’s largest stainless steel skillet, which can fry up 600 chicken quarters at once. Festival-goers knew it was a good place to get a glimpse of the lookalikes after the contest.
Most of the counterfeit colonels say they’ll be back again next year, hoping to take the top prize. After all, it’s on each one’s bucket list!