Huge Festival 2020: will pivot in 2020 and grow into a nationwide celebration of Buffalo’s most iconic food. “America’s Greatest Chicken Wing Party” will serve as a fundraiser for food banks in more than 50 major cities across the U.S. The new concept will take place in October as part of the newly created “National Chicken Wing Month,” according to Drew Cerza, founder of the festival.
The Wingfest, which has been held every Labor Day weekend in downtown Buffalo since 2002, will not physically take place this year at Sahlen Field out of an abundance of caution due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, festival organizers will coordinate with chicken wing fans and Buffalo expats from across the country to host chicken wing parties in major U.S. cities (with a total population of more than 160 million people) during October.
Since its founding, the Wingfest has raised approximately $400,000 for local charities with most going to hunger relief agencies such as FeedMore WNY (formerly the Food Bank and Meals on Wheels). These new chicken wing parties will allow the festival’s fundraising efforts to expand nationwide at a time of critical need for food banks. They will also focus on boosting business at chicken wing eateries across the country, many of which are struggling during the pandemic.
Buffalo Bills Backers Fan Clubs in each city will kick off the month on Oct. 4 by hosting watch parties at their favorite restaurants and bars during the Buffalo Bills vs. Las Vegas Raiders game. Each wing party will serve as a fundraiser for the local food bank in that city, Cerza said.
Throughout October, people are then encouraged to host their own wing-eating gatherings as professional or college football watch parties at their favorite restaurants and bars or at their home and post their images to social media using the hashtag #wingparty2020. Every party that registers will be entered into a contest to attend the 2021 Wingfest as VIP judges.
Attendees will be asked to put together some money and create a donation for their local food bank. All participants will be asked to adhere to the COVID-19 public health guidelines in place in their respective communities.
“This is an unprecedented reimagining of an American food festival. No other such event has ever attempted something like this before,” Cerza said. “For years, I’ve heard from Wingfest attendees from across the United States who wanted us to bring a celebration of wings to their hometown. This year, we’re doing just that – all while raising money for a great cause.”
Del Reid, Bills Mafia co-founder, said he was excited to mobilize the Buffalo Bills Backers Clubs and the “Bills Mafia” – expats who retain a strong affinity and enthusiasm for Buffalo and now live across the U.S.
“Buffalonians are always eager to step up and help out,” Reid said. “We’re excited to get together and feast on our favorite food from our hometown this fall for a great cause.”
Tara A. Ellis, president and CEO of FeedMore WNY, the hunger-relief organization formed by the merger of the Food Bank of WNY and Meals on Wheels for WNY, said she is thrilled to work with other food banks to turn “America’s Greatest Chicken Wing Party” into a nationwide fundraiser.
Feeding America stated one in six people throughout the nation may experience food insecurity in 2020 as a result of the pandemic. FeedMore WNY has seen the need for food assistance surge throughout its service area of Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie and Niagara counties in recent months, where the food insecurity rate is expected to increase by 44% in 2020.
“This is such a creative way to celebrate Buffalo and to keep the much-loved National Wing Festival alive during these historic and unprecedented times,” Ellis said. “The Wingfest has been an outstanding partner to our organization over the last two decades, and we’re thrilled to have found a way to continue building on that relationship at a time when our organization – and those like ours across the country – need help the most.”