By LEIGH C. MERRIFIELD
News & Journal Editor
If your stomach can handle spicy foods and you don’t mind a messy face, perhaps the Hot Wing Eating Contest that benefits the United Way of Harrison County will be right up your alley! This annual fundraising event usually draws a great crowd. Even if you are not a participant, it is fun to watch and cheer for your favorite contestant.
The event will be held once again at Buffalo Wild Wings, located at 45 Betten Court in Bridgeport on Wednesday, January 25th. Buffalo Wild Wings has offered their support as host for this fundraiser for many years now. Lots of folks gather there to eat wings and watch sporting events throughout the year, but on January 25th, the sport gaining all the attention will be United Way’s “Hot Wing Bowl”!
According to United Way of Harrison County’s Executive Director Tina Yoke, last year’s event drew about 18 contestants and raised $30,000.
“It has become a very popular event and has witnessed increased interest and growth. We’re hoping to exceed that amount this year,” she said. “Winners get a trophy, a t-shirt, and of course ‘bragging rights’!”
Contestants have eight minutes to eat as many hot wings as they can. Last year’s top eater consumed 40 wings in eight minutes. And last year’s top money raiser brought in $13,000 in sponsorship funds.
Winners since the contest’s inception have been all male, and typically, most of the contestants are male as well – although a few females have participated in the past. This year, however, there will be a women’s division. So look out, guys, you may have some strong competition this year!
A story posted online reports that a 120-pound mother of four in Pennsylvania set a record of eating 363 wings in 30 minutes. Now that is worthy of some boasting!
This year’s event will feature three ways to win: the contestant who raises the most money for United Way (regardless of how much they eat), the male contestant who eats the most hot wings in eight minutes, and the female contestant who eats the most hot wings in eight minutes.
Yoke noted that her office has had several calls from people inquiring how hot the sauce is on the wings to be consumed. “We called to find an answer and were told the wings will feature the ‘classic’ hot sauce, not the blazin’ hot sauce, so I guess the featured sauce for the contest will be the milder of the two,” she added.
Tina noted that there are different ways for contestants to gather sponsors. “They can either pledge so much for the each wing their contestant can consume in the allotted time OR they can just make a flat contribution,” she explained. “Either way, it is a great way for individuals to get involved with the United Way campaign and it gives them a good feeling to know that they have done something to help the agencies that we help to fund.”
The United Way of Harrison County supports 20 agencies, and they will be offering funding to two new agencies in 2017. One is Camp Catch Your Breath, a weeklong overnight camp for asthmatic children, and the Progressive Women’s Association, whose funding will be used to support educational nutritional programs that help feed families and offer tips on planning healthy meals. Remember … all funds raised remain in Harrison County to help the local agencies they support.
At this point, the United Way has reached 79% of its $850,000 goal. The Hot Wing Eating Contest is its final BIG fundraiser of this year’s campaign. However, they still have until February 28th to accept contributions to meet their goal before the campaign concludes.
Contestants must register in advance by January 20th to participate in this year’s Hot Wing Eating Contest. You may register online at unitedwayhcwv.org or by calling the United Way of Harrison County’s office at 304-624-6337. The registration fee is $15.
If you are really a serious competitor, we understand there are online sites that feature tutorials on how to consume wings at record speed! Good luck to all, and may the best man – or woman (!) – win.