Monday, September 05, 2011

Are we missing the obvious?

Another summer has come and passed. I hope you all got out there and took advantage of all that Western New York has to offer.

I spent most of the unofficial last weekend of summer eating, first at a family gathering and then at the 10th Annual National Buffalo Wing Festival.

I've gone to the chicken wing festival for several years now. And it always amazes me that there are these businesses around the world that make money – and lots of it – off of chicken wings. An entire industry, if you will, exists because of something that happened right here in Buffalo. And although wings remain a “Buffalo thing,” there are restaurants all across America that make Buffalo (and our wings) their specialty. 

Each restaurant seems to have their niche. Many seem to go for the hottest wing possible. Others go for different and unusual flavors. But they all recognize that Buffalo is the chicken wing capital of the world. 

For decades, people have recognized Buffalo as the birthplace of chicken wings. In fact, many parts of the country refer to them as “Buffalo wings.” 

But it took a somewhat obscure movie starring Bill Murray – who went to a fictional chicken wing festival in Buffalo - and a newspaper column asking why said chicken wing festival didn't really exist to make Drew Cerza, AKA the “Wing King,” stand up and say, “Why don't we celebrate this birthright of ours? Why don't we have a festival dedicated to chicken wings?”

And so, 10 years ago the National Buffalo Wing Festival was born. It's grown each year, attracting more and more media attention to one of the things that we do right. TV cameras from every major news organization were in town, showing Buffalo on a hot summer day instead of the standard blizzard footage they all seem to show every time Buffalo is mentioned.

For the fifth year in a row, yesterday, Sonya “Black Widow” Thomas won the chicken wing eating championship. This year she did it in style, eating 183 wings in 12 minutes, setting a new world record. I couldn't eat 183 wings in a week, let alone 12 minutes. 

Thomas' feat will no doubt bring even further attention to Buffalo. 

Good for us.

The whole thing makes me wonder, though; If we were so oblivious to not have a chicken wing festival one of the things we're most famous for, what else are we forgetting? What other obvious highlights, attractions and local oddities are we forgetting to promote? 

The rest of the world thinks of Buffalo as “the place where snow comes from.” But we have so many things to offer the world. From art and music to architecture and industry, Western New York has so much to be proud of. 

Which of you will be the next Drew Cerza? Which of you will be the next person to realize that there's something we need share with the world – and bring it to fruition?

* A side note: There was a “Ridiculously Hot Wing Eating Championship. The winner ate 20 of them in the least amount of time. I tried one of those hot wings from Hurricane Grill and Wings. My ears literally hurt and I was dizzy. They were impressive. And painful.