Published on August 21st, 2012 | by Christopher Moriarty0
Winging it: Spicing things up at the National Buffalo Wing Festival
By all accounts, New York is home to some pretty cool stuff. Esteemed art galleries, an iconic skyline, adventurous music scene and no shortage of fine dining establishments with no less than 62 Michelin starred restaurants. But despite the plethora of high society eateries, head out of the city itself and New Yorkers still know how to get their hands dirty and indulge in some ‘proper’ grub.
The humble chicken wing takes centre stage when the National Buffalo Wing Festival returns to the city of Buffalo in New York State each year, with 2012 seeing the fiery event return for its 11th annual offering. It has now become a staple ingredient of Labor Day weekend for Western State New Yorkers, and it makes for appropriately no-frills, working class fayre too.
Crowds descend on Buffalo each year for the chicken wing celebration. Picture courtesy of www.buffalowing.com.
And they certainly don’t do things by halves either, celebrating what is said to be the USA’s most popular finger food in fittingly gluttonous style. More than three million wings have been be wolfed down during the previous 10 festivals, with over 500,000 finger-licking visitors polishing off 200 tonnes of the things.
Of course, any food festival worth its salt has to throw in an element of competition and the US Chicken Wing Eating Championships will be one of the highlights of the weekend as the country’s best wing-nibblers battle it out on the Sunday afternoon to take the title. This is an official International Federation of Competitive Eating-sanctioned event, no less, so expect some international standard eating.
Reigning champion Sonya Thomas celebrates one of her historic wing eating wins. Picture courtesy of www.buffalowing.com.
Current title holder Sonya ‘The Black Window’ Thomas (pictured top) will take some beating again after proving that size isn’t everything, with the seven-and-a-half stone chicken eater taking her fifth title in a row consuming a record breaking 183 wings last year. There are various other competitions to test your mettle as well, including the Ridiculously Hot Wing Eating Contest for, you guessed it, the spiciest wings, as well as the start-em-young Baby Wing Contest, which will see babies and toddlers up to the age of four getting stuck in.
Even those not brave enough to enter the contests still need to bear in mind some basic rules when it comes to enjoying their Buffalo Wings.
Wings need to be covered in ‘True Buffalo Sauce’, which means the staple ingredients are butter and cayenne pepper, and to add that touch of crispiness they should be fried.
Don’t think about battering your wings either. This isn’t Colonel country, this is Buffalo, where “breading a chicken wing is un-American,” according to passionate wing man and festival founder Drew Cerza.
Festival founder, 'The Wing King,' Drew Cerza. Picture courtesy of www.buffalowing.com.
All noble aims, considering this is a festival that was ultimately inspired by a fictional compulsive eater played by Bill Murray. That’s right, it was a true Hollywood anti-hero in the film Osmosis Jones that inspired Buffalo native Cerza to actually start the event. In the underwhelming movie Murray’s character, lazy zoo keeper Frank Detorre, indulges in eating a frankly disgusting amount of junk food with a dream of making it to the then-fictional National Buffalo Wing Festival.
A year after the film’s release and the festival was fictional no more, and continues to go from strength to strength. Throw in an Elvis impersonator, a tie-dye wearing tribute band, a balloon modeller, the Miss Buffalo Wing Pageant and a few tonnes of chicken wings and you’ve got a pretty wild weekend.
The 11th annual National Buffalo Wing Festival runs from September 1 to 2 in Buffalo, New York.