15th Tussey Mountain WingFest Kicks Off Tonight
For 14 years, the Tussey Mountain WingFest has been offering wing connoisseurs and casual diners the chance to taste a variety of delicious sauces from around the area.
And tonight, the spicy tradition continues.
“It was one of the first real summer events that the mountain took on,” says Aaron Weyman, marketing director for Tussey Mountain, about the event. “It started out highlighting all the local restaurants and local musicians and that’s still what it is today. It’s a great outdoor event.”
Christie Hume, lodge and events manager for the mountain, has been around the event since its first days as a “small deck party.” Back then, WingFest was known as the QWIK Rock/Chili’s Wing Challenge, Hume says. The event grew every year since, gaining more attention from potential competitors, and has gone from 200 people listening to someone play acoustic guitar on a deck to 2,000 people enjoying full-band performances.
“It took on a life of its own,” Hume says about the competition, which features 22 vendors this year – a majority being restaurants and bars with a few catering companies and sauce makers. Competitions are held each Thursday starting tonight until the finals on Aug. 29 and usually have four vendors competing, with tonight’s event and the bout on Aug. 15 featuring three vendors. This year’s performers for the event include Pure Cane Sugar, Chris Ruble, Ted and the Hi-Fi’s, Hybrid Ice, The Earthtones, Velveeta and The Badlees, who kick things off tonight.
After visitors pay a five-dollar admission fee (children 12 and under are free), they are given a voting ticket and a list of all the vendors competing. Voters can then purchase tickets at a dollar a pop to buy wings, beer, fries and other food items. When the voter finds a vendor who satisfies their taste buds, they can drop their voting ticket in that vendor’s box.
At the end of the night the tickets are counted and the winner moves on to the finals.
Tonight’s matchup features the Main Street Café in Alexandria, Pa., the Spruce Creek Tavern in Spruce Creek and the mountain’s own restaurant, Edges Pub. There are 11 vendors in the competition from State College like the Arena Bar and Grill and Rotelli’s while others will travel from Bellefonte and Lewistown for a chance at victory.
“There are a lot of great restaurants returning,” Weyman says about this year’s event. Last year’s champions from the Hublersburg Inn Family Tavern in Howard will be competing again, as well as new catering companies World’s Fare Catering and Boulevard BBQ. “Some of these places make really excellent wings.”
Each vendor brings their best sauces to the competition to smother the wings that are provided by Tussey.
Hume says the event has gone through different changes over the years with sponsorships and competition formats, but WingFest has continued to grow in popularity for the 13 years she’s been working at the mountain.
“We kind of joke that more people know us for WingFest than skiing,” she says. “I think it’s become the party of the year” (she says about 30 kegs of beer are emptied each night of the event).
“I can’t explain the phenomenon of WingFest. It’s just a really fun time.”
Click HERE for a list of vendors competing and a schedule of musical performances.