In its 18th year, WingFest at Tussey Mountain is a Centre County summer staple, and a foodie event like none other you’ll find in the region. Stretching over six weeks, WingFest gives guests to the ski-resort-turned-summer-haven a taste of all the best wings within driving distance, and it all kicks off July 6.
“It’s a $5 admission,” said Aaron Weyman, who is the director of marketing at Tussey Mountain. “With that admission, each person gets a vote ticket for anyone 13 and up. For anyone 12 and under, it’s free.”
Hungry guests vote for competing local restaurants and vendors who bring all their own sauces, with hopes of making it to the final round on the seventh week.
It’s really grown over the past few years into a big, exciting, fun, community event that not only includes Centre County restaurants, but some (from) Mifflin County and occasionally Blair County.
Aaron Weyman, Tussey Mountain director of marketing
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“At the end of the night, we count up all the votes, and the winning restaurant wins that week and goes on to the seventh and final week, and competes against the other winners,” Weyman said. “Each year we crown a champion. It’s really grown over the past few years into a big, exciting, fun, community event that not only includes Centre County restaurants, but some (from) Mifflin County and occasionally Blair County.”
Last year’s winner was Milroy’s The Wilderness Lodge, and Weyman said that some themes have evolved over the past 17 years.
“Some restaurants have some name recognition, and just some quality sauces all the way around,” he said. “Others may have just one or two that stand out more than your typical mild buffalo sauce or barbecue sauce. They may have something like blueberry or ... (Ye Olde College Diner) has competed and (did) a grilled sticky wing. So sometimes people get creative with it and it becomes a big success.”
What unites all the winners, Weyman said, is quality sauces and enthusiastic staff who engage with the guests.
Between bites, guests have a chance to explore a side of Tussey Mountain they may not otherwise encounter if they only visit during the winter months. Alongside a stage with live music, there’s plenty of other attractions.
“You get a lot of families that will come out and set up a spot on the slope with their chairs and blankets, let the kids run loose up the mountain or into the bounce house,” Weyman said. “Obviously the go-karts and miniature golf stay busy all night as well.” The chair lift is also running, offering the optimum view of the sunset and surrounding area, made complete by a drink in hand.
On a nice weather day, Weyman and the Tussey Mountain crew expect about 1,500-2,000 attendees, but even when it rains, about 800-1,200 attendees could show up.
“I think it’s really a fun event that happens rain or shine; we bring in a lot of these restaurants, some of them are out of town or out of the way for a lot of people, and we kind of centralize everything for them, giving them a lot of options at one time and bringing it all together,” he says.
As far as participating restaurants, last year saw the biggest number ever.
“We had six restaurants each week last year for six weeks,” Weyman said. This year, he expects at least 24 competitors to participate over the course of the competition.
Regardless of the crowds or competitors, though, the event’s main draw is the family-friendly, affordable atmosphere that’s so conveniently located. Drawing adults with small children, young professionals, retirees and high school kids alike, WingFest is, to Weyman, “a pleasant, fun event ... (in) one of the better spots in the area, with a great sunset over Mount Nittany, and everyone comes out and seems to have a good time.”
IF YOU GO
- What: WingFest Round 1
- When: 5:30-10 p.m. July 6
- Where: Tussey Mountain, 301 Bear Meadows Road, Boalsburg
- Info: www.tusseymountain.com