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Ranch inclusion a big twist at this year's Buffalo Wing Festival

Nick Lippa

Big changes are coming to this year’s National Buffalo Wing Festival and they may be upsetting to the condiment snobs of the world.

There are just some things you don’t dip your wings in when you are in Buffalo. Yet the rest of the world doesn’t seem to care. Now they are getting their say finally in the 18th year of the National Buffalo Wing Festival.

“We’re going to address the major controversery in life—ranch dressing versus blue cheese,” festival founder and “Wing King” Drew Cerza said to a crowd outside Buffalo City Hall late Wednesday morning.  

“It’s a big, big problem we have in life.”

Cerza’s announcement drew no cheers.

“We lay down our swords at Sahlen Field this Labor Day weekend. We are going to have Hidden Valley Ranch dressing available for all of our out of town guests,” he said.

You will be hard pressed to find ranch acceptance from most Buffalonians, but if you are going to make it work, the City of Good Neighbors can at least get behind an effort of good will.

“They’re going to collect their donations, Hidden Valley Ranch, for the Food Bank of Western New York, now known as FeedMore WNY, and all of our donations will be matched by Hidden Valley. So how about a round of applause for Hidden Valley for embracing the Buffalo community,” Cerza said while encouraging the audience to be more accepting of this idea.

After what can only be described as a pity applause, a few other changes were announced. Vegetarian wings will be on site for the first time in Wingfest history. Cerza said younger people eat more plant-based food and they are adjusting to meet demand.

Credit Nick Lippa / WBFO

“Again, I get a lot of calls for it. I actually found a vegetarian wing that was pretty darn good,” he said. “I think with Root and Bloom (Café) coming in, it’s a quality vegetarian wing. I haven’t found one yet. That’s the first one.”

International wings return from London and Mexico. The international eateries include London’s 'The Orange Buffalo,' Mexico’s 'Wing’s Army,' and new this year from St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands, the 'Buddha Sushi Bar'.

The festival will again include the United States Chicken Wing Eating Championship, which takes place Sunday Sept. 1. Competitive eater Joey Chestnut is returning to defend his title for the fifth straight year.

Also making a return is the 4th annual Chicken Wing 5K.

As for the blue cheese versus ranch debate…

“When I beat Bobby Flay back in 2008, guess what Bobby had as a side dish. Not blue cheese. He had ranch,” Cerza said.

Congratulations are in order for Bobby Flay, who has finally gotten his way.

Credit Nick Lippa / WBFO

Nick Lippa leads our Arts & Culture Coverage, and is also the lead reporter for the station's Mental Health Initiative, profiling the struggles and triumphs of those who battle mental health issues and the related stigma that can come from it.
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