Chicken-suited demonstrator in Vail facing charges in two different cases, starts crowdfunding campaign for legal expenses |

Chicken-suited demonstrator in Vail facing charges in two different cases, starts crowdfunding campaign for legal expenses

Tim McMahon is also the person who placed the notorious '10 days to vacate' sign in front of the Beaver Creek snowstake camera

A screengrab of video from Vail Police. Tim McMahon, who is wearing the chicken suit, received a trespassing ticket on Saturday, Dec. 10.
Courtesy image/Vail Police

A chicken-suited demonstrator has been frequenting Vail Village this season, holding protest signs aimed at exposing local issues. 

While the chicken suit was meant to draw attention to the signs more than conceal his identity, Tim McMahon says many people became aware that he was the demonstrator after word got out about the trespassing citation he received from the Vail Police in December. (McMahon set foot on Vail Resorts property after being told not to and was promptly served with a summons). 

It wasn’t long after that, McMahon said, when locals started to put two and two together: The chicken-suited protestor is also the notorious “10 days to vacate employee housing” sign writer from the 2020 pandemic

For many of those people, the discovery that the chicken man is also the person who hiked up Beaver Creek mountain to place a protest sign in front of the resort’s live-broadcasting snowstake camera came as no surprise, given McMahon’s penchant for sign-based activism. Indeed, McMahon said, many suspected he was the chicken man following his first demonstration of the season, which occurred outside of Beaver Creek during World Cup week. 

McMahon says the human-sized chicken costume, (sometimes called the San Diego Chicken), is one of the most recognizable mascot figures in the U.S., and he hopes it catches on for anyone else hoping to shed light on issues in Vail. 

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“I know I’m not the only one wanting to speak out,” he told the Vail Daily. “I’d love to see another chicken out there one day.”

‘You quit your day job for this?’

McMahon regards protesting as a serious job; in a recent police body cam video, he tells officers he quit a different position to dedicate more time to demonstrating. 

“You quit your day job for this?” the officer asks. “So you don’t have a job right now at all?”

“Well I have three other jobs,” McMahon says in reply. 

McMahon’s working-class, service-industry perspective on issues often inspires his protesting work. One of his jobs, La Cantina restaurant in the Vail Village parking garage, gives him an up-close and personal perspective on happenings in the Vail Transportation Center, that all-important transit nexus which many must use on a daily basis to get to and — more saliently in recent weeks — home from their jobs in Vail.

“I’ve seen people spending the night there on numerous occasions this season,” McMahon said. 

In a recent sign, McMahon drew attention to the issue of locals not finding a ride home from work, mentioning a group of people who were stranded after the county’s last bus headed west was too full to take them home. McMahon’s sign said 20 people were stranded in the Vail Transportation Center in a single night.

Cost of clucking

With the valley’s working class as his muse, Eagle County’s largest publicly traded company, Vail Resorts, is often in McMahon’s crosshairs. McMahon targeted Vail Resorts and then-CEO Rob Katz in his first bit of local activism nearly three years ago on the Beaver Creek snowstake camera, and says the company’s heavy-handed response convinced him he must be doing something right. 

“I got fired from Beano’s and banned from being able to buy an Epic Pass,” he said.

Vail Resorts is currently pressing charges against McMahon in two cases — a criminal tampering charge from his Beaver Creek sign-posting activities and a trespassing charge for his chicken-suited demonstrations on Vail Resorts property earlier this season. He received his trespassing summons while at his job at La Cantina. 

McMahon says he intends to fight the charges in court as a part of his normal course of duty as a demonstrator, but the costs are adding up.

“If either case goes to trial, I will be looking at $2,500 a day in lawyer fees,” he said.

A Feb. 21 court appearance for the criminal tampering charge and a March 15 appearance for the trespassing charge loom large on McMahon’s calendar, but a GoFundMe campaign he started in January has provided some relief. 

“There are plenty of people who believe what I’m doing is an important, constitutionally protected way of shedding light on issues that need more attention,” he said. 

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