A pirate ship has landed at the Benton Franklin Fair
The macaw’s scarlet plumage seemed out of place among the boughs of a pine tree at the fairgrounds in Kennewick.
The tropical bird darted in and out of trees and swooped around the pirate ship moored all week at the Benton Franklin Fair & Rodeo.
Walla Walla native Chris Biro showed off his cockatoos, conures and macaws Wednesday to the delight of kids and adults.
Biro dressed in a pirate costume complete with cutlass and tankard is host of The Pirate’s Parrot Show.
Biro’s love of parrots started in 1986 when he received a cherry-headed conure named Chester shortly after leaving the Army. He lost the bird six months later, but he was given a blue and gold macaw.
He trained the macaw, named Jeremy, to ride on his shoulder while he drove a motorcycle. People, who saw him, asked him to come to schools, day cares and nursing homes to talk about the parrot.
“The whole pirate thing started because I took a fencing class in college and it happened to fall on Halloween, and so I took my little foil and my macaw, Jeremy, to my fencing class all dressed up in a pirate outfit that I made,” Biro said.
When he started looking for a way to make money with his parrots, he tried renting a booth and seeing if people would pay for a picture with one of his birds. When he donned the pirate outfit, he doubled his earnings.
Eventually, the parrot photos turned into more of a show when he began wandering through the crowds at the fairs.
People come up to me all day long and say, ‘We love what you do.’ Nobody ever does that with any other businesses that I’ve ever been involved in.
Chris Biro, The Pirate’s Parrot Show
Then his mission turned to teaching people about the birds. He explains during his nearly hour-long act what makes parrots different from other birds.
“What makes what I do work, is the fact that the public likes to interact with these animals,” he said. “At the pet store, there’s a sign that says, ‘Don’t touch. I bite,’ for a good reason.”
Biro heads a nonprofit, Bird Recovery International, which aims to help specific endangered bird species.
He mostly sticks to the Northwest, but he has taken his birds throughout the West.
Even after 20 years, his audiences’ reactions to the birds keep him returning to the stage.
“The word of the day is adorable,” he said, referring to the small bright yellow and red sun conures. “I hear that all day long.”
The South American, medium-sized birds dive toward the audience, plucking $1 tips from out-stretched hands to deposit into a bowl.
“People come up to me all day long and say, ‘We love what you do,’” Biro said. “Nobody ever does that with any other businesses that I’ve ever been involved in.”
▪ The fair continues Thursday with singer Trace Adkins at 7:30 p.m. General seating is free with fair admission.
Also Thursday, A Taste of the Fair is 2 to 6 p.m., when food vendors will offer smaller portions of signature items for $2.
The Horse Heaven Round Up starts at 7 p.m.
Go to bentonfranklinfair.com for more information on events and prices.