If Buffalo deserves a signature aroma, let it be chicken wings.
And that mouthwatering smell hovered over Niagara Square on Wednesday.
The traffic circle doesn’t typically smell delicious. But at a news conference to promote the 13th annual National Buffalo Wing Festival, fast becoming both a regional and nationally recognized event, several variations of the city’s signature dish were available for the notables assembled.
“Buffalo is the birthplace of the chicken wing,” Mayor Byron W. Brown announced to the crowd. “No place in the nation, no place in the world, makes chicken wings as well as we do in the City of Buffalo.”
Festival founder Drew Cerza and other proud Buffalonians roared with applause.
Then, they feasted.
Popular wing restaurants brought more than 2,000 wings as examples of what they will be offering at the festival Aug. 30 and 31 in Coca-Cola Field. La Nova Pizzeria, Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino and Quaker Steak & Lube Buffalo, to name a few, set up tables around the square and invited community members to sample their wings.
“Mmmmm. Awesome,” said Brian Sullivan, 54, of Buffalo, as he took a bite of a barbecue-flavored wing from La Nova. “It’s a nice, thick sauce that I like.”
Nick Gifford and Rebecca Koziol were walking along Niagara Street when they saw – and smelled – the chicken wing setup. They sampled the Louisiana Liquor and Arizona Ranch wings from Quaker Steak & Lube Buffalo, which won the “Festival Favorite” award the last three years.
“It was crispy, tangy, saucy,” said Gifford, 30, of Kenmore, as he took a bite of the Arizona Ranch wing.
The National Buffalo Wing Festival isn’t just about showing the world Buffalo’s delectable wings. It’s about showing people, young and old, what this city has to offer.
The event attracted upward of 80,000 people from around the globe for the weekend last year. They stay in the city’s hotels, shop at local stores and witness the developing region.
“I think Buffalo, for years, we felt beat up, stagnant,” Cerza said. “This festival gives us a lot of civic pride. It makes us feel like we own this festival, we own the chicken wing.”
Cerza hopes visitors take advantage of area gems such as Niagara Falls, art museums and the developing Canalside, to name a few. The goal, he said, is to bring them back to tour Buffalo regularly.
And professional eaters are coming to Buffalo for the weekend to compete in the U.S. Chicken Wing Eating Championship. Past winner Joey Chestnut, five-time world champion Sonya Thomas and last year’s first-place winner, Miki Sudo, will compete. ESPN3 is going to broadcast the contest live on its web-based channel.
Wing restaurants from around the country, like Booty’s in Arizona, Sliders Grill & Bar in Connecticut and Legend Larry’s in Wisconsin, will bring their own versions of Buffalo wings to Coca-Cola Field. This year’s theme is spicy, and vendors are invited to turn up the heat on their sauces.
Caution: Booty’s is offering a sauce called “Insanely Hot,” and Sliders named one “Buffalo Insane.”
For the first time in the festival’s history, Duff’s Famous Wings will participate. And, of course, Anchor Bar, where the chicken wing was originated 50 years ago, will offer classics such as medium, BBQ and suicidal.
Some other festival events include bobbing for wings, Buffalo buffet bowling eating contest, the Miss Buffalo Wing Pageant and a hot wing eating contest.
The festival takes place from noon to 9 p.m. Aug. 30 and 12:30 to 7 p.m. Aug. 31.
Proceeds will help benefit Western New York’s Alzheimer’s Association, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and Meals on Wheels.