Winging it: 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 Chicken Wing Takes Centre Stage

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.

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.

An Element of Competition

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 a 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.

Got Wings?

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.

The Rules

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 festival founder Drew Cerza.

The Inspiration Behind The Event

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 annual National Buffalo Wing Festival runs from September 1st to 2nd in Buffalo, New York.