As he sat in front of an array of chicken wings in the sweltering stands of Thursday afternoon, Corey Malone was happy to describe the selection.
“That’s a little more of a mustard base,” he said indicating one batch of the great American finger food.
“That seems like more of a vinegar,” he points to another. “That has more of a barbecue flavor to it.”
But they're all pretty tasty.
“It’s a great event,” said Malone who lives near Boschertown. “It’s a good way to see all the different restaurants and get an idea of what they have to offer.”
The heat and the economy may have kept a few faces away, but as the 2011 Wing Ding fades into the history books, Malone wasn’t the only one eager to call it a success.
Though in its 13th year overall, this was the inaugural run for the annual tradition in O’Fallon. In the past, the Wing Ding has been hosted in St. Charles or St. Peters. The chicken wing-themed celebration is the biggest fundraiser of the year for BCI, a St. Peters agency that helps secure employment for disabled adults.
This year’s festivities attracted about 2,500 participants, estimated coordinator Karen Bryner, who said tough economic times may have dampened the normal attendance of 3,500 to 4,000.
“Next year, we hope to have an even bigger crowd because word will spread about the great time people are having tonight,” Bryner said.
Sixteen eateries from across the area showcased their wings at the event, which featured everything from live music to wing-eating contests. Participating restaurants also competed against one another in categories from nontraditional wings to “people’s choice.”
“There’s even a showmanship award for how they dress up their serving booth,” Bryner said.
Chuck Blossom, BCI’s CEO, said he thought the new location was working out well.
“So far it’s been just great,” he said. “The and the could not have been more helpful in providing this venue for us. From the looks of things, people are really having a great time and enjoying it.”
He estimated that as many as two dozen different wings, from teriyaki, to sweet and sour to parmesan, were available with some participants bringing multiple varieties.
As St. Charles resident Alison Breeding stepped into the gift shop in search of frozen custard, she said she was satisfied with the selection and the venue. She said the ballpark allowed for a less cramped environment. It’s her second year attending the event.
“There’s lots more than there was last year it seems, and it’s all spread out so there’s plenty of room to go get what you want,” she said.
Kevin Teson, who has attended the event for seven years, said he preferred the more compact design from last year. Still, he loves the Wing Ding as it allows him to connect with old friends, eat good food and support a worthy nonprofit.
“We’re out here to see people, drink beer and eat wings,” said the St. Charles resident as he enjoyed his favorite wings from the K Pub and Grill. “It doesn’t get much better than that.”
Relaxing at a quiet table, O’Fallon resident Mark Gurgol had gone through about seven or eight different wing styles but said so far he felt was at the top of the pack.
“There’s still a couple more to taste, but so far that’s the winner,” he said.
Though situated to attract participants from Lincoln, Warren and St. Charles counties, the allure of a good chicken wing also brought in folks from farther afield.
First-time attendee Tim Rupp of Florissant said he enjoyed the mustard wings from Stefanina’s, a restaurant in Troy.
“It’s for a good cause, and it’s been a blast so I’ll probably come back,” he said.
Trent Cook, another first timer didn’t have to go that far. He lives just behind the ballpark.
“It looks like every vendor in St. Charles County is in here and there’s a whole lot of wings being served,” said a smiling Cook as he headed over to try a sample from Windows On/Off Washington.
Tom Barratt, director of sales and marketing for BCI, was working in the VIP area. He hadn’t had a chance to get any of the fare for himself yet but he was happy to serve others as they came out to support BCI’s work.
He also had kind words for the stars of the show--those bringing the wings.
“The restaurants are the unsung heroes,” he said. “It’s a lot of work to come and do this.”