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Wingfest returns to Triad Farmer’s Market

The Triad’s premier wings and beer fundraiser returns June 17, to the Robert G. Shaw Piedmont Triad Farmer’s Market, Wingfest pits seven local restaurants against one another as they vie for the title of Best Wings in the Triad.

Wingfest kicks off at 11 a.m. with food and entertainment for the whole family. Admission is free and wing samples and nonalcoholic drinks are $1.00 each. Guests can also stretch their stomachs in the “Lord of the Wings” wing-eating contest, bust a move in the chicken dance competition or browse artwork from the Creative Arts Studio.

People gathering at the Lord of the Wings Contest at Wingfest 2016

People gathering at the Lord of the Wings Contest at Wingfest 2016

The local classic rock group, the Fabulous Flashbacks and the Arc of High Point’s own Heart and Soul Singers will provide live music. A pop-up beer garden will dispense microbrews from local breweries, including Natty Greene’s, Gibb’s Hundred and Preyer Brewing Company.

This year marks Wingfest’s 10th anniversary and the event has grown steadily since it began; Last year, over 19,000 people came to the festival.

“We are really proud to put on this unique fundraiser,” executive director of the Arc of High Point Stephanie Antkowiak, said. “It’s always a lot of fun,”

Antkowiak credits Wingfest’s sponsors for making it a success, as well as the Piedmont Triad Farmer’s Market for hosting.

“There aren’t many venues that will let you set up for no charge, so we’re very fortunate,” Antkowiak said.

Four Saints Brewing Company at Wingfest 2016.

Four Saints Brewing Company at Wingfest 2016.

Wingfest is the Arc of High Point’s most popular fundraiser with all proceeds go to fund the nonprofit’s programs for High Point residents with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

By far the biggest crowd draw of Wingfest is the chance to sample and vote on the best tasting wings. This year’s contenders are: University Grill, Pizza Wing King, Sidelines Grill, Pantry Fried Chicken, Rixter Grill, Backyard Coals, and Wingski’s food truck.

Keith Ray, of three-time Wingfest winner George’s Pizza, claims the keys to his popular wings are quality and simplicity.

The dance contest at the 2016 Wingfest.

The dance contest at the 2016 Wingfest.

“You have to get the biggest, freshest wing you can, fry it well, and put a good sauce on it,” Ray said. “Just care about what you’re doing.”

For last year’s Wingfest champion Stephon Cunningham of Fish N’ Wings food truck, it’s all about the secret sauce. Fish N’ Wings swept the competition at Wingfest 2016, with awards including Best Hot Wings, Best SweetWings and Best Overall. Cunningham, a Washington, D.C. native, created his signature Mumbo sauce to be a taste of home.

“Mumbo sauce originates in the Washington, D.C. area, where I’m originally from. At the Chinese carry-outs, they put that sauce on the wings. I grew up on it,” Cunningham said. “When I came down here to North Carolina, they didn’t have it, so I wanted to come up with my own version.”

Cunningham revealed that the sweet, tangy flavor of Mumbo sauce comes from a tomato base. The rest is a secret that he hopes will help him keep his edge in next year’s competition. A scheduling conflict kept Fish N’ Wings out of Wingfest this year, but Cunningham says he’ll be back to defend his title.

Cunningham advises this year’s Wingfest competitors to bring extra supplies and staff, so as not to get overwhelmed by the crowd.

“Be prepared for a lot of people. There were a lot more than I expected,” he said. “But try to enjoy the day, also. Take it all in.”

Wingfest will be held from 11 a.m to 4 p.m. at the Robert G. Shaw Piedmont Triad Farmer’s Market, 2914 Sandy Ridge Road, in Colfax.

Mia Osborn is a Greensboro-based freelance writer who hails from Birmingham, Alabama.

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