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'Let's do some chicken splat'

Picture this: Actor Bruce Campbell, dressed to the nines as a carnival barker of the Wild West, invites you to step right up.

A nearby cage is lined with paper. A chicken enters. You place your bet, reserving one of the numbers written on the paper. Then you wait until nature calls — for the chicken, not you — fingers crossed that it picks your number as the landing site.

“Around and round the chicken goes, and where it ... squats ... nobody knows,” Campbell says during a telephone interview.

This is Chicken Splat, a staple of the annual Buncom Day ghost town celebration, held 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, May 25, in the Applegate Valley. Think Bingo — just with, well, you know. Who can guess where the fowl will foul? And Campbell, star of iconic horror and horror-comedies such as “Evil Dead,” “Army of Darkness” and “Bubba Ho Tep” — among a host of other movie roles, including several bit parts in the early 2000s Spider-Man movies — will oversee every cluck and yuck.

Other Buncom Day activities include a parade, pony rides, music, a book sale, a country store, children’s activities and exhibits. The event is open to the public, and admission is free, though donations are accepted.

“It’s just to get the neighbors together and provide a little history for the people that have never heard of (Buncom),” says Buncom Day organizer Martha Straube.

Buncom appeared on the scene in the 1850s, originally serving as a mining camp during the gold rush in the Sterling Creek area, according to the Buncom Historical Society website, www.buncom.org. It later served as a supply and distribution center for Little Applegate ranchers and farmers.

“It actually had up to 150 or 160 people living there at one time,” Straube says.

The U.S. government built a post office there in 1896, but it closed 20 years later. A small general store continued to operate, but the town was eventually abandoned, much of its demise due to the invention of the automobile and the shortened drive to Medford and Jacksonville. Three buildings remain — the post office, cook shack and general store — but they are in a state of “arrested decay,” Straube said. Event organizers hope to raise money for roof repairs at this year’s celebration.

Campbell’s involvement in the Chicken Splat event happened rather organically. A resident of the Applegate for 20 years, he has attended the festival off and on. He remembers the first time he saw the parade, which is so short it does a second loop.

“It was so utterly amusing. Whenever I’m in town I’ll go. The only reason I’ll miss it is if I’m not there,” Campbell says. “It’s as local of a parade as you’ll ever find in your life. If you’re looking for a non-touristy parade, go to Buncom.”

This year’s parade starts at noon.

“I don’t think you even need to register to get in it,” Campbell adds. “I think you can show up with your unicycle and go, ‘I want to be in this thing,’ and they go, ‘Great!’”

Leading up to the event each year, organizer and Buncom owner Lyn Hennion starts putting out feelers in the community asking who will do what for Buncom Day, Campbell says.

“‘Anyone going to bring pies? Any music? Any entertainment? Who wants to be in the parade?’ So she’s the queen,” he says. “So she just tossed it out. Over the years, other people have done the Chicken Splat. They have it every year. I thought, ‘You know what? Let me sign up. I’m spending a little more time home this summer, let me get my hands dirty and let’s do some chicken splat.’”

To attend, take Highway 238 to Ruch, then turn south onto Upper Applegate Road. Travel three miles, then turn left on Little Applegate Road and go another three miles to Buncom, where the road intersects with Sterling Creek Road.

“You can’t miss it. There’s no place to park. So just come in your drone or whatever,” Campbell says. “It’s not a big organization-type thing, but it makes up for it in spunk and patriotism.”

If you miss Campbell at Buncom Day, you can catch him at the Britt Festival July 23, where he’ll narrate a performance of “Peter and the Wolf.” More information is available at www.brittfest.org. He’ll also play host to a new “Ripley’s Believe It Or Not” TV show, which starts later this summer.

Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at rpfeil@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4468.

The Chicken Splat is a highlight of the annual Buncom Day festivities. Mail Tribune/File Photo