Thousands Enjoy "Wingfest!"

September 3, 2011 Updated Sep 4, 2011 at 6:31 PM EDT

By WKBW News

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September 3, 2011 Updated Sep 4, 2011 at 6:31 PM EDT

BUFFALO, NY ( WKBW ) Thousands enjoyed a finger licking good time in downtown Buffalo Saturday for the first day of the 10th annual "Wingfest!"

Event organizer Drew Cerza welcomed the crowds to the ballpark for wings, and lots of family fun.

WKBW Channel 7 is a proud co-sponsor of the event for "Kids Zone" activities.

Chief Meteorologist Mike Randall from Channel 7's "Eyewitness News This Morning" and at Noon will perform Sunday at 1 & 3p.m.

The major "chicken wing eating" food event is scheduled for 4pm.

For a list of events, and more on "Wingfest," head to the news links section of wkbw.com

Over the course of nine previous events, the NATIONAL BUFFALO WING FESTIVAL has drawn more than half a million visitors, served some 2.9 million chicken wings (more than 200 tons), raised $200,000 for local charities, and received extensive national and international media attention.

Last year alone, chicken wing lovers came from all 50 states and 36 countries to be part of this incredible celebration, which will again take place this Labor Day Weekend, September 3rd and 4th at Buffalo’s Coca-Cola Field. Hours are 12-9 pm on Saturday and 12 to 7pm on Sunday.

This 10th Anniversary celebration also warrants some reflection on the challenges that have been part of its history. They include surviving the 60 mile per hour winds that came with Hurricane Ernesto and running-out of chicken wings half-way through one year’s event. There have been power failures, fryer breakdowns, missing blue cheese shipments and three inches of rain in my one. But, there have also been a couple of World Records, as well.

There could be another one of those in 2011, as Sonya Thomas again defends her title against numerous professional eaters, including the #1 eater in the world, Joey Chestnut. Last year Sonya ate 181 chicken wings in twelve minutes for her third festival victory in a row.

This year, visitors will also meet Ryan Holman, who calls himself the “Ultimate Wingman”. He has vowed to eat 2011 chicken wings during 2011, and he’s on track to do so.

This United States Chicken Wing Eating Championship is but one of this year’s highlights…a combination of annual favorites and some new features which will become part of festival history. They include an appearance by Duff Goldman, the Food Network’s “Ace of Cakes”, who will be performing with his band Sand Ox on Saturday night. Duff and the band will also judge a Wingfest Birthday Cake Competition on Saturday afternoon.

Comedian Mark DeCarlo, who has hosted several national television shows, including the Travel Channel’s Taste of America, will entertain the crowd with his cooking demonstrations and join local favorite Dennis George, the Quizmaster, as festival emcee.

Other bands set to perform at this year’s NATIONAL BUFFALO WING FESTIVAL include Terry Buchwald, Pirate Dreams, Mick Hayes Band, LeRon Zydeco and Scott Celani. Erin Sydney Walsh, Savannah King, and Maddie Larkin will also perform on the Pettibones Patio.

Contests have always part of the festival fun, and your favorites will be back this year, including the “Sauce-off” competitions, amateur Chicken Wing eating competitions, the famous “Bobbing for Wings”, also known as the Blue Cheese Bowl, the Miss Buffalo Wing Pageant, the Baby Wing Contest, the .5K “Running of the Chickens”, and the Yancey’s Fancy Cheesiest Couple contest.

Of course, we can’t loose sight of the main reason tens of thousands of visitors will take-in this year’s festival, and that’s to eat lots and lots of chicken wings. Rest assured that more than 35 local and national restaurants, along with other vendors, will be serving-up more than 100 varieties of everybody’s favorite finger food, as well as other Buffalo Style Foods.

The festival benefits the Alzheimer’s Association of WNY, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, and Meals on Wheels of Western New York.

Many sponsors make the NATIONAL BUFFALO WING FESTIVAL possible, including, Bunge Oil, Sanderson Farms, Yancey’s Fancy Artisan Cheese, Barber Foods, Frank’s RedHot, Freed Maxick & Battaglia,, Blue Light, Hart Hotels, Marie’s Dressings, RAM Trucks, Renewal by Andersen, Rosina Food Products, Tim Hortons, Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum , Wing Dings, Buffalo Bisons, Barefoot Wines, Bimbo Bakeries USA, D’Youville College and Geico.