Still wild about wings

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Still wild about wings

WingFest marks 15 years of spicing up Hilton Head
By JUSTIN PAPROCKI jpaprocki@islandpacket.com <li> 843-706-8143
Published Wednesday, March 17, 2010   |  690 Words  |  lifestyle

It's become a Hilton Head Island tradition, a rite of spring that celebrates one of the simplest foods around -- the chicken wing.
The 15th annual WingFest starts at 11 a.m. Saturday at Shelter Cove Community Park.
As it is the 15th anniversary, we give you 15 things to know about Hilton Head's annual celebration of the chicken wing.
1. More than 6,000 pounds of wings are served at WingFest. The wings are ordered through Wild Wing Cafe's supplier, according to festival organizer Joe Cain of the Island Recreation Center. The Thursday before the event, Cain picks them up at Wild Wing then drops them off at the participating restaurants.
2. Expect a crowd. Organizers hail it as the biggest one-day event on the island. They estimate close to 5,000 people attend throughout the day.
3. Get ready for variety. This year's event has the most participants ever with about 20 restaurants and organizations taking part. New restaurants this year include Pizza Hut, Aunt Chilada's and the return of Reilley's. Coming back are favorites The Smokehouse, Kenny B's, Wild Wing Cafe, Remy's and more.
4. Don't forget to vote. Everyone who comes has a chance to vote for their favorite wing as part of the people's choice award. As usual, a panel of judges also weigh in on the best wings. L'Woods won the judge's vote last year.
5. Sometimes a basic wing is the best wing. The Smokehouse, for example, has won multiple judges' and people's choice awards. It's known more for its barbecue and ribs, but judges have said it gets it right with a basic barbecue wing.
6. Sometimes a complex wing isn't the best. One year, a resort chef tapped into his French cuisine training and prepared a unique recipe for a peppery lemon wing that ended up not even placing, much to the dismay of the chef, Cain said.
7. The contest is not rigged. Cain occasionally gets the complaint that the contest has to be rigged, given how often The Smokehouse places. But in a rare occurrence, the restaurant did not place in the judge's vote last year. However, it did win the people's choice. Let the controversy continue.
8. Don't discount the little guys. Sometimes the amateurs can cook up a wing just as good as the pros. The Hilton Head Island Fire & Rescue Division usually have a tent and have been honored by judges in the past. Food blogger Sally Kerr-Dineen of It's All Delicious returns for her second year with orange chipotle wings. She's not intimidated by the big boys at all. "I'll take my wings up against anyone's," she said.
9. It's more than just wings. It's also an afternoon of music. Frequent WingFest player Mike Kavanaugh, local favorites Deas Guyz and Atlanta's Sun Domingo play. And if you're all winged out, hot dogs, ice cream and other non-wing foods are available for purchase.
10. Bring the kids. The festival features a kid's play area. New this year is laser tag.
11. WingFest comes from humble beginnings. The first events were held at Shelter Cove Harbour as part of SpringFest, a monthlong slate of events during March. The first WingFest had about six restaurants participating.
12. Taste a preview of what's to come. Some restaurants use WingFest to gauge their wings. Wild Wing debuted The General flavor four years ago and it quickly became one of the most popular on its menu.
13. Don't worry about missing the games. This weekend is the opening weekend of NCAA Tournament basketball games and TVs will be set up so no one has to miss any of the action.
14. Expect the creative. In previous years, restaurants have tried something new. Street Meet devised the WingFest-only Chicken and Waffles, with a maple-syrup glazed wing on a waffle. Kenny B's Bubba's Dixie Beer Wings came with a dollop of South Georgia grits.
15. It all goes to a good cause. The purpose of WingFest is to benefit the Island Rec Center's scholarship fund. Each year it raises about $20,000. So take solace in knowing that chowing down on messy wings will be worth it.