This weekend, the Queen City will be bombarded by three tractor-trailers carrying 45 tons of a Buffalo trademark.
Coca-Cola Field in downtown Buffalo will host the 9th annual National Buffalo Wing Festival this Labor Day weekend. Hungry patrons will come from near and far to consume over 90,000 pounds of chicken from over 30 national and local wing establishments.
Drew Cerza, a native Buffalonian who is affectionately called the "Wing King," started the festival in 2002. Cerza anticipates over 100,000 people to attend the ballpark this weekend for one of Buffalo's most widely known events. Last year alone, wing lovers came from 49 states and over 30 countries.
Since the festival began, over 2.4 million wings have been devoured from more than 191 participating restaurants. Over $125,000 of the festival's earnings has been donated to charity, and a wedding ceremony even took place in 2006.
In addition to the abundance of available wing tastings, this year's event will feature two of the most widely known professional eaters in the world.
"This year, the most exciting and anticipated event of the festival is the United States Chicken Wing Eating Competition," Cerza said. "We have the world's No. 1 eater – world hot dog champion Joey Chestnut – going head-to-head with Sonya Thomas, the wing champion from the past three years. This is an absolutely must see event."
Chestnut and Thomas will compete in the chicken wing eating competition on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. alongside 11 other professionals in order to crown a new champion. Both competitors have won several eating championships and hold world records for the consumption of chicken wings.
In 2005, the 5-foot, 105-pound Thomas ate 174 wings in 12 minutes. Three years later, Chestnut, who weighs in at a mere 230 pounds, consumed 241 wings in 30 minutes.
"To have a competitor [Chestnut] who can eat 68 hot dogs in 12 minutes participate in the wing competition against Thomas is unbelievable and greatly anticipated," Cerza said.
Restaurants will also compete in various categories, including the highly touted "best wing" category, which rates sauces ranging from traditional hot, traditional X-hot, creative spicy, creative barbeque and traditional medium.
Chicken wings are not the sole item present at the festival, however.
A variety of other food will be available for purchase, including pizza, as well as deserts like fried Snickers and fried Oreos to satisfy a sweet tooth.
Jennifer Gambino, a senior psychology and health and human services major, looks forward to the festival every year.
"The atmosphere is really fun and you get to try flavors you would never think of, like maple syrup," Gambino said.
The .5K Chicken Wing Run, otherwise known as the "Running of the Chickens," will kick off the start of the festival on Saturday. New events this year include a media wing eating competition, and Yancey's Fancey will sponsor a cheesiest couple contest. Favorite events from the past will also return, including the Miss Buffalo Wing Pageant, Baby Wing Pageant, the Buffalo Blue Cheese Bowl and Amateur Sauce-off competitions.
Festival admission is $5 and all food tickets must be purchased inside the ballpark for $1 each. Additionally, three chicken wings can be purchased for $2 at every stand. The wing festival will run this Saturday from noon to 9 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 7 p.m.