The National Buffalo Wing Festival celebrated its 11th birthday this Labor Day weekend as Buffalo wing enthusiasts from 43 states and 30 countries flocked to Coca-Cola Field in Buffalo, New York to sample hundreds of styles of wings and even chicken wing soup. The two-day event, which was inspired by the 2001 movie Osmosis Jones in which Bill Murray’s character dreams of visiting Buffalo for a chicken wing festival, was created in 2002 by Wing King Drew Cerza, and over the years has served more than 4 million wings and raised over $200,000 for local charities. Bring The Wing couldn’t pass up the opportunity to participate in this event, so we traveled the seven hours to Buffalo to cover the festival and to join in on all of the fun.
When we arrived at the festival, the crowd was just starting to gather on this beautiful morning as the smell of wing goodness filled the air. Restaurant tents lined the perimeter of the field, so no matter which way you walked, a Buffalo wing was just a few steps away. This must be what awaits in heaven for the die-hard wing fan!
Our first stop, after meeting with some of the vendors, was at the judging tent for the Restaurant Sauce-Off Competition where our very own Brian was one of the judges. It was a blind taste test in which cartons of wings were labeled with just a category and a number to identify them. Brian participated in the Traditional Medium sauce category, however other categories included Creative Spicy, Creative Sweet, Creative & Traditional BBQ, and Traditional Hot & X-Hot. Although they all looked and smelled so good, only Smokey Bones could take home first place in the Traditional Medium category.
Throughout the day, the crowd kept entertained with live music, quiz shows, and exciting activities on the main stage. One of the messiest events we saw was the Bobbing for Wings in which three contestants dove face first into a baby pool filled with 14 gallons of Marie’s Blue Cheese to pluck out Buffalo wings only using their mouths. There was also an Amateur Sauce-Off Competition, a Pro-Football Eating Challenge, and the Buffalo Buffet Eating Contest. And this was only day one! Day two carried on the energy and excitement as Joey “Jaws” Chestnut took down the reigning United States Competitive Wing Eating Champion, Sonya “The Black Widow” Thomas, by eating 191 wings in 12 minutes – a new world record!
As the official birthplace of the Buffalo wing, there is no wonder why this event attracts tens of thousands of visitors to Buffalo each year. The National Buffalo Wing Festival has become known as the “Super Bowl” of the chicken wing industry, and offers something for everyone to enjoy. We had a great time, and we’d like to give a special “Thank You!” to the Wing King for keeping this event going for over a decade.