While that’s less than the 30 to 40 tons they get in typical years, the shipment nonetheless represented a major coup for “Wing King” Drew Cerza, one of the festival’s organizers. He had hopped on the phone and kept making calls until the wings came through.
“It’s good to know people,” Cerza told the Buffalo News. “Ironically enough, we’ve got the same quality of wing we’ve been using the last 10 years. We didn’t take the wing supply out of the Western New York market, it came from somewhere else – it didn’t hurt the local restaurants with supply. I wouldn’t have done that.”
National Buffalo Wing Festival Usually Draws Tens of Thousands
In 2019, over 60,000 people flocked to the National Buffalo Wing Festival. In 2021, festival organizers will have 500 chairs arranged on the end zone of Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park, per WIVB.
The event runs for two days, Sept. 4 and 5, from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m., and the $20 tickets (up from $5 in 2019) may be used at any point during its run. You purchase wings using sheets of tickets, which are available in sheets of eight for $10.
The festival has raised more than $405,000 for charity since it launched 20 years ago. This year the festival will be donating its proceeds to FeedMore WNY and the Alzheimer’s Association of Western New York.
How the Wing King Got His Wings
The 20 tons of wings Cerza obtained add up to 40,000 pounds of chicken. And thanks to supply chain issues and increasing demand, the chicken was pretty tough for the National Buffalo Wing Festival to acquire.
There was a recall of 8.5 million pounds of chicken in July after Tyson found listeria in its products, making chicken even scarcer. Then four restaurants dropped out of the festival, citing staffing issues and pandemic-induced exhaustion. That left 22 restaurants with stands in the stadium.
As it is, the wings were 70% more expensive than in normal years. And the 35-pound jugs of fryer oil they use to cook them went from $20 before the pandemic to $40 this summer. That explains the rising ticket price, and the jump from $1 to $1.25 per chicken wing.
“It was, ‘We got ’em, we lost ’em, we got ’em,’ it was very tricky, but I’ve got some good resources,” Cerza told the Buffalo News of his quest for 20 tons of wings.
In the end, the National Buffalo Wing Festival – moved from downtown Buffalo to the stadium in Orchard Park – will go ahead as planned, albeit with a hike in the price tag thanks to the pandemic.