This weekend in Buffalo just got saucy
Published: Thursday, August 30, 2012
Updated: Monday, November 5, 2012 20:11
For the past decade, Labor Day weekend in Buffalo has meant two things: the unofficial end of summer and lots of chicken wings. This holiday weekend will be no different.
The 11th annual National Buffalo Wing Festival will be held Saturday (12 p.m. – 9 p.m.) and Sunday (12 p.m. – 7 p.m.) at Coca Cola Field on Washington Street in downtown Buffalo. Admission is $5 per person, and wings from approximately 35 different vendors from across the country will be available.
Food and drinks will be available, and are purchased using food tickets, which are $1 each. A list of food prices will be in the festival guide, available at the entrance.
Every year the festival hosts the U.S. Chicken Wing Eating Championship. This year, champion Sonya Thomas will attempt her fifth consecutive win. Other events throughout the weekend will include bobbing for wings, “sauce-offs” and the Miss Buffalo Wing Pageant.
There are three new events this year: a pro-football wing eating challenge featuring Buffalo Bill players Eric Wood and Andy Levitre, a “Battle of the Border” – with contestants from the U.S. and Canada – and a “College Cup” challenge.
UB will be represented in the College Cup by a three-person team with members from the True Blue student club, according of University Awareness and Special Events manager Paul Hutchings.
The team is being coached by head men’s and women’s basketball coaches, Reggie Witherspoon and Felisha Legette-Jack.
Among the team’s competition are students from SUNY Fredonia and Erie County Community College.
Each team will have seven minutes to eat as many medium-flavored wings as possible. Drew Cerza, the founder of the festival, said the winner is determined by visually inspecting each of the cleaned bones. Points will be deducted for wings that are only partially eaten by the contest’s end.
Registration for the College Cup will be open until Friday night, and Cerza encourages more students to enter the event. The form can be found on the festival’s webpage.
Also new this year are jumbo wings, an addition Cerza said participants have been clamoring for.
The festival capitalizes on Buffalo’s reputation as the home of the chicken wing and has become one of the region’s largest food festivals. According to most legends, the Buffalo wing was born at the Anchor Bar, owned by Frank and Bellissimo. However, other legends claim that the wing originated at Duff’s Famous Wings or at John Young's Wings 'n Things.
The chicken wing is ranked America’s No.1 finger food, according to buffalowing.com
Elvis tribute singer Terry Buchwald will perform at the festival, as will Pirate Dreams (Jimmy Buffett tribute band), Lee Ron Zydeco and country group 90 West.
In the last decade the festival has raised $225,000 for local charities, including: Food Bank of Western New York, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Meals on Wheels for Western New York and the Western New York Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.
Last year, the festival served over a half-million wings to visitors from every state in the country. Festival organizers estimate that over 3 million wings have been served to about a quarter-million wing enthusiasts in the past decade.
According to Cerza, the inspiration for the festival came from the movie Osmosis Jones in which Bill Murray’s character dreams of attending the National Buffalo Wing Festival. When the film was released in 2001, no such event existed. Cerza, affectionately known as “The Wing King,” was determined to change that. A decade later, his Labor Day weekend festival is a Buffalo favorite.