Listening to the founder of the National Buffalo Wing Festival talk about chicken wings is like listening to a pastor talk about right and wrong.
Trust me, that's a fitting analogy because in this town wings are a religion. And you better believe that when it comes to chicken wings there is a right and wrong.
"First, in Buffalo we just call them wings. If you want to fit in, just call them wings," says Drew 'The Wing King' Cerza, who is hosting the 10th annual National Buffalo Wing Festival on September 3rd and 4th at Coca-Cola Field in Buffalo, New York. "Second, don't even think about breading a wing. We have a special jail here in Buffalo for people who attempt to bring breaded wings into our city. Wings are 'dropped in naked' and served hot and crispy. Please, whatever you do, don't bread a wing."
Cerza may be joking around about the jail (I think), but he's serious about breading chicken wings, the ultimate sin in his book. Show a breaded chicken wing to a native Buffolian and they will show you the door.
The idea for the National Buffalo Wing Festival came from the 2001 movie Osmosis Jones starring Bill Murray, who played the role of a compulsive eater with a goal of attending the The National Buffalo Wing Festival. At the time there was no such thing, so a columnist from the Buffalo News wrote that someone should take up the challenge and create a wing festival in the city.
That's when native Buffalonian Drew Cerza, now affectionately known as the Wing King, decided to take up the challenge.
Already a legend in Buffalo for a pathological passion for wings, Cerza didn't hesitate to put a plan into action and get the festival off the ground.
Today, it's morphed into one of the most successful festivals in New York – last year 71,000 people came out for the festival. This year, they are expecting guests to eat 750,000, or 50 tons of wings. The wings come from some of the greatest wing eateries in Buffalo, including the famous Anchor Bar, where the original wing recipe was invented in 1964.
"We're looking forward to having even more people come this year," says Cerza. "We have people come from all over America, we had a lot of people make the trip from Canada, and we had many European, South American, from as far away as Hong Kong and Australia. So we're looking forward to welcoming the world to Buffalo this weekend."
All the flavours you love and expect are there, and a few you may never have heard of, including Sweet & Tangy, Honey BBZ and Thai Ginger.
If you you're feeling adventurous, try some of these super-hot wings that are guaranteed to have you screaming in pain and leave dead skin hanging from the roof of your mouth: Suicide, Homicide, Bar-B-Cide, Lethal Injection and Instant Death.
The signature event is the United States Chicken Wing Eating Championship. In 2007, the rubber-stomached 100lb Sonya Thomas of Alexandria, VA consumed a world record 173 chicken wings in 12 minutes. Other events include:
Baby Wing Contest - Contest for babies who dress up in cute wing costumes.
Amateur Wing Sauce Competition
Miss Buffalo Wing Pageant - Won last year by the lovely Desiree Wiley of Lockport, NY.
5K 'Running of the Chickens' - Competitors run this race dressed in chicken-themed costumes.
'Blue Cheese Bowl' Bobbing for Wings
XXXHot Wing Eating Contst - How they manage to eat wings this hot that fast without needing the assistance of paramedics, I'll never know. In 2010, JoAnne Powers of Spencerport, NY was crowned champ.
You can see a list of the 2011 winners here.
Money: You're in America - remember to change those Canadian dollars to greenbacks before you cross over. Bring at least $25 - $50 for wing samples, depending on your appetite. Bring more if visiting with children.
Border: All rules for crossing the border apply - ensure that you have a valid passport for everyone you're traveling with and that they're all up to date. Wait times at the border vary - listen to the radio for border updates.
Parking: There's street parking available around Coca-Cola field, but this may be difficult to find. There's also a huge parking lot on the south side of the field. It's convenient, but expect to pay $10 - $15 US. to park for the day.
Dress for weather: This is an outdoor event. Bring a jacket and rain gear just in case.