Retirement: Iconic Giant Frying Pan at home in Georgetown

post pan sizing up the task

Volunteers size up the task in moving the Giant Frying Pan to its final resting place – the Nutter D. Marvel Carriage Museum in Georgetown. (Sussex County Post/Glenn Rolfe).


GEORGETOWN – The original Giant Frying Pan – an iconic 650-pound piece of Delmarva Chicken Festival history – arrived at its final resting place Wednesday.

With Sussex Central High School FFA members providing the manpower and womanpower, the legendary frying pan made its way from storage at the University of Delaware experimental grounds to the Nutter D. Marvel Carriage Museum in Georgetown – the town where the first chicken festival was hatched in 1948.

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Sussex Central High School’s FFA assisted in moving the Giant Frying Pan to the Nutter D. Marvel Carriage Museum. The historic frying pan was one of two manufactured at Mumford Sheet Metal Works in Selbyville for the Delmarva Chicken Festival. From left: Warren Mumford and FFA members Katie Phillips, Kelli Trice, Lexxi Karr, Susie Oates and Dylan Rose. (Sussex County Post/Glenn Rolfe).


“I think it’s a proper place for it,” said 93-year-old Warren Mumford.

His family’s Mumford Sheet Metal Works in Selbyville manufactured both of the giant frying plans used for 63 years of the Delmarva Chicken Festival’s 65-year run that concluded last June.

Produced in three days at Mumford’s facility, the original frying pan made its chicken festival debut in Dover in 1950. It was used from 1950 through 1987, having cooked an estimated 100 tons of chicken over that period while serving as a gigantic symbol of Delmarva’s chicken industry.

When manufactured in 1950, it was the world’s largest known fry pan.

Now in retirement, the frying pan will remain in temporary storage, tipped on its side, until a fitting permanent niche is determined at the Marvel Museum, which is undertaking building expansion and historic inventory relocation.

“We’re going to make a nice display. We envision that these displays will be kind of self-explanatory,” said Terry Johnson, Sussex County Return Day Director, whose passion for history keeps him busy at the Marvel Museum.

“They’re not going to cook any more chicken in it,” said Mr. Mumford with a chuckle.

post pan warren and jeff sizing handle

Warren Mumford, left, and son Jeff Mumford of Mumford Sheet Metal Works in Selbyville size up measurements for a handle for the Delmarva Chicken Festival’s original Giant Frying Pan, which was donated to the Georgetown Historical Society. (Sussex County Post/Glenn Rolfe).

Georgetown hosted the Delmarva Chicken Festival five times: 1948, 1954, 1977, 1986 and 2011.

Mr. Johnson plans to incorporate posters from the five Georgetown festivals with the frying plan display.

Both giant frying pans became available when the Delmarva Poultry Industry, the non-profit trade association for the region’s chicken industry that sponsored the festival, announced that the 2014 festival would be the last.

DPI donated the original frying pan to the Georgetown Historical Society for display at the Nutter D. Marvel Carriage Museum.

“It was appropriate that the original fry pan be put on display at Georgetown because of the area’s significance to our industry,” said DPI Executive Director Bill Satterfield.  “We look forward to working with the Georgetown Historical Society to help it promote our industry.”

“I saw the article that said this was the end of 65 years of the chicken festival. And I thought, ‘What better place than the first town which is Georgetown in 1948,” Mr. Johnson said.

The 1988 replacement fry pan was acquired by The English Company, well-known for its fried chicken. The English Company plans to use the pan to prepare chicken across Delmarva at festivals, community events, and other venues.

About a dozen SCHS FFA members, including officers, assisted in the monumental move.

“FFA is huge on preserving the history of agriculture, and that’s pretty much what we did today; preserve the history of the poultry industry, which is a huge industry here in Delaware,” said Clifford Lawson, an agriculture instructor at SCHS. “Without it I don’t know where our agriculture industry would be. As a teacher I don’t see the kids coming from the family farms any more. For us to have an opportunity to teach them about the poultry industry and now hands-on how it was developed over the years, that is awesome. Now it’s preserved here. The kids will have the chance to come out here and tour, and take a look at it – hands on.”

“They (FFA members) always volunteer,” said Mr. Lawson. “They love little projects like this. It’s nice to have their help and get a little education out of it.”

post pan terry johnson sharing history

Sussex Central High School FFA members listen as Terry Johnson shares some history about the original Giant Frying Pan and the Nutter Marvel Carriage Museum, where the pan will become a permanent exhibit. (Sussex County Post/Glenn Rolfe).


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