The Alaska State Fair has come and gone, but one question still burns: What's up with the ducks sporting those punk-rock mohawks?
Is it a Monsanto experiment? A beauty contest gone bad? Cruelty to animals?
Turns out it's none of those. The feathery afros are natural. The hairdos are not.
Duck owner Leah Hagee said she dyed the topknot of a crested pekin just for fun last year, giving the white duck a startling updo that looked like a purple chrysanthemum bloomed from its head. Yet the dye job was so flawless some wondered if it was genetic.
"It's from a bottle," confessed Hagee, who shows a lot of poultry at the annual event.
The male duck quickly became a crowd favorite at an event filled with popular oddities -- including giant mutant pumpkins -- becoming one of the most gawked-at and photographed items.
"It was a big attraction and people liked to see it," said Glenna Stanley, the fair's poultry superintendent. "It goes with the whole fair theme because everyone gets their hair" colored and spray-painted at the booths.
The decorated duck was so popular Hagee did it again. This year, she colored the crowns of a pair of females, one pink and the other purple. She said she enjoys hanging around the exhibits to hear fairgoers puzzle over the possibilities.
"They're like, 'Is it wearing a hat? Is that a hair piece? I wonder if they inject die into the eggs before they hatch?'" said Hagee.
Hagee, a technician at a Chugiak veterinary clinic who works with her husband, Dr. James Hagee, said there's no peroxide and no bleaching, just gel from a bottle of Splat that washes out once the fair is over.
The ducks don't mind getting their feathers done when they're sitting in a sink of water, so it's easy to get it right. "They're like, 'We're sitting in water and we're happy with it,'" Hagee said.
This year, she even dyed some quail she brought to the fair. Best of all, she said, is that the colorful critters help people linger longer at the exhibits, giving kids more of a chance to learn about the real origin of meat and eggs.
"I just enjoy seeing the people enjoy it and it's important for people to realize where their food comes from," she said.
Contact Alex DeMarban at alex(at)alaskadispatch.com