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This wasn't just a chicken-imitating contest for 8-year-old Monique Daigrepont. It was a chance to pay tribute to a dear, departed friend.

So she hunched her shoulders, leaned toward a microphone and let it rip: "Pwahhhhk. Pwahk-pwahk, pwahhhhk."So passionate was her cry that Monique was named top hen cackler for children ages 12 and under at Saturday's Chicken Capers, or the "Olympics of the Chicken World."

Monique said she picked up the technique from her pet hen, Isabel, who died recently.

"I'm good at it because I had a pet chicken. This was for her," she said.

The festival in Dover, Del., is billed as a celebration of chicken - only, it wasn't the best of days for the guests of honor. Most were were fried, barbecued or shish-kebabed.

Cackling and crowing contests were just part of the festivities. Other events included chicken scratching, in which adults and children clawed through 250 pounds of corn meal and flour to find nickels.

The region around Dover is the fourth-largest broiler production area in the United States.