After seeing the movie, a Buffalo News columnist suggested that the city create a real festival. Buffalo native Drew Cerza ran across the article one day while cleaning out his garage and thought that was a great idea. He decided to create the National Buffalo Wing Festival and put on the first one in 2002. He must have been a bit surprised when 40,000 people showed up! Since then, the festival has become an event that lives up to its name, and Cerza earned the title of “Wing King.”
Close to 100,000 people from all 50 states and 64 other countries consumed more than 25 tons of chicken wings at last year’s festival. More than 30 local, regional, national and international restaurants created hundreds of flavors of wings for the enjoyment of festival goers. This year’s 15th Annual Wing Fest will be Sept. 3rd and 4th at Coca-Cola Field in downtown Buffalo.
Chicken wings used to be considered a throwaway item, but the Anchor Bar, a downtown Buffalo landmark, changed all that. In the 1960s, the bar’s then-owner, Teressa Bellissimo, covered deep-fried wings with a sauce made from butter, Frank’s Red Hot and a dash of vinegar, reportedly as a late-night treat for her son and several of his friends. The bar started serving the wings with blue cheese dip as a free appetizer. Patrons loved them.
During the early 1960s, when the Buffalo Bills advanced to the Super Bowl four years in a row, TV broadcasts shined a national spotlight on the Buffalo creation. Since then, they’ve become a staple in sports bars and sports-watching parties. Creative chefs everywhere have come up with their own versions. Even Food Network Chef Bobby Flay has tackled them—in 2007, he traveled to Western New York for a Buffalo wing throwdown with Cerza, who won the contest.
These days, you can find hot wings at nearly every bar in town, and several places, like the Anchor Bar, Duff’s Famous Wings and Bar Bill, specialize in them. When President Obama visited Buffalo in 2010, he enjoyed spicy Buffalo wings at Duff’s. The Anchor Bar has flown on to great success, expanding many times over, selling its own bottled wing sauce and opening several branches, including one in the Buffalo airport. Several national wing chains have gotten in on the craze, and you can find spicy wings from Toledo to Tokyo.
Last year, food columnist Larry Olmsted from USA Today wrote an in-depth, two-part piece celebrating Buffalo wings, calling them “the de facto food of sports” and relating that a quarter of a billion—yes, billion—wings are consumed each year during the Super Bowl.
Every Buffalonian has his or her favorite style of wings, degree of heat and place to go for them.
“Wings are a topic of much discussion, deeply held opinions and almost unbelievable passion in these parts,” Olmsted wrote.
Spicy, quirky events like the National Buffalo Wing Festival are what make this city so vibrant and unique. That’s why so many people continue to call Buffalo home all their lives, and why other active people who appreciate its urban lifestyle are looking to retire in Buffalo.
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Canterbury Woods Williamsville, the first continuing care retirement community in Western New York, offers a relaxed, pastoral setting that’s still within easy reach of Buffalo’s urban excitement. Canterbury Woods Gates Circle, located near the charming, historic Elmwood Village neighborhood, connects you closely with the heart of the city.
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