Crowds up to challenge at Tussey Mountain WingFest

When a couple from the Buffalo, N.Y., area says the “wings ain’t too bad,” at the 15th annual Tussey Mountain WingFest, then they’re probably right.

“We come from western New York, home of the buffalo wing,” said Brad McCollum with a laugh. “We moved down here in ’04 and were kind of skeptical of the wing scene. We kind of figured the wings back home were bar none, the best, but we come to the fest all the time, and Buffalo and other areas up there have some competition.”

His wife, Jenna McCollum, nodded in agreement, although she said she doesn’t like to admit it.

On Thursday night, Tussey Mountain Ski Area held their annual wingfest series at the Tussey Mountain Amphitheater — a six-week event the venue holds every Thursday night throughout the late summer with live music and a wing competition.

Marketing Director Aaron Weyman said each week one restaurant is deemed the winner, after the public votes for their favorite wings of the night. On Aug. 29, the weekly winners will come together for a final round.

“It’s something the public seems to like, and an event like no other,” Weyman said, and added that although the music and wings are great, the sunset over Mount Nittany is the icing on the cake.

“On a nice night, some people will head a little further up the hill to see the sunset,” he said. “It’s pretty spectacular.”

However overcast skies prevented the crowd from seeing the sunset on Thursday.

Each week, Weyman said the event attracts hundreds of people. With the event halfway done, he encourages people to come out the next few weeks.

“Pretty soon it’ll be fall and cold so we’re hoping people come out and take advantage of the fest,” he said. “It’s fun and there is something for everyone and kids of all ages.”

The wingfest is held, rain or shine. Weyman said in its history, the fest has only been canceled once, due to lightning.

“We’ve been pretty lucky,” he said. “We’re glad because a lot of work goes into this.”

The planning process is most of the year working on booking vendors, musicians and local restaurants.

And for some of those restaurants, this fest is one of their favorite activities.

“We put a lot of work into this. We’ve even added 10 new sauces to the menu because of the fest,” said Arena Bar & Grill General Manager Karyn Withers.

The Arena has won its week the last two years and hopes to move further in the future.

“It’s fun for us to get out here and interact with the public and have some friendly competition,” Withers said.

The Arena competed against Down Under Steak House, Waterfront Tavern and Hublersburg Inn Family Tavern on Thursday, while Velveeta and Spider Kelly were the musical guests.

The next wingfest will be held 5:30 p.m. Aug. 15.