It was a great day for wings.
The Tussey Mountain Wing Fest wrapped its seven-week competition Thursday with sunny skies and rock ‘n roll. Twenty-eight restaurants brought their best wing game every Thursday to the sound of live music and thousands of visitors.
It came down to the final six: Main Street Cafe, of Alexandria, Huntingdon County; The Arena, of Ferguson Township; The Darkhorse Tavern, of State College; Gigi’s, of Ferguson Township; Duffy’s Tavern, of Boalsburg; and the Hublersburg Inn.
The wings were voted on by the visitors, said director of operations Bennett Hoffman. Each guest received a voting ticket with admission.
“It’s a lot of work (to put Wing Fest together),” Hoffman said. “It’s a big event. We have a lot of different food vendors, beverage operators and live music.”
While Wing Fest marked its 16th year, Hoffman marveled over how much it had grown. What started as a small, patio-sized venue now attracts local and national music acts, he said, with an average of 2,500 to 2,800 visitors a week.
“On a nice day, we can get up to 3,100 people,” he said. “People are busy and stressed today. It’s a great environment to come and relax, have a beverage, eat some wings and spend time with their families.”
Each restaurant brings three of its own sauces, he said, while the fest provides the wings and the fryers.
“I used to try to keep count,” said Main Street Cafe owner Casey Wible of the number of wings served. “But we get so busy you just can’t do it.
“We hang in with the best of them.”
Jim Pringle, of Bellefonte, has been coming to Wing Fest for almost 10 years. He said he typically brings his family, and his children enjoy dancing to the music.
He, too, was surprised at the turnout, saying the fest has “just blown up. They had to shift the location because the line got so long.”
“It’s a beautiful day for a Wing Fest,” said Darkhorse Tavern kitchen manager Phil Echols. “I really hope for a hard-fought battle.”
Adam and Casey Salyards, of Pennsylvania Furnace, said they try to come out every year. Unlike fellow festgoers who look for the hottest sauces available, they said they prefer crispy wings and barbeque.
“I think it’s going to be a record turnout,” Casey said.
Owner Andi Biddle said The Hublersburg Inn was aiming for their third win in a row.
“Everybody in Tussey was saying, ‘If you get the three-peat, that would be crazy!’ ” she said. “It’s a great competition though. It’s all fun and we’ll definitely come back.”
But when the smoke cleared, Duffy’s Tavern was declared the winner.
The tavern will receive a trophy and certificate for making it to the final round, and a second trophy and certificate for winning the fest overall, Hoffman said.
“It’s gotten to be a bragging right around the Centre Region,” he said.