Dining With Denise Neil

Eat your fill of chicken wings at Wingapalooza

Chicken wing fans sample the offerings at Tulsa’s Wingapalooza, which served as the inspiration for Saturday’s event at Intrust Bank Arena.
Chicken wing fans sample the offerings at Tulsa’s Wingapalooza, which served as the inspiration for Saturday’s event at Intrust Bank Arena. Courtesy of Jeremy Charles

If the math works out, no one will leave Saturday’s Wingapalooza at Intrust Bank Arena wishing they’d eaten more chicken wings.

The arena has capped ticket sales for the new event at 2,000, and it has purchased 40,000 chicken wings, which earlier this week were distributed to the 20 local participating restaurants.

That means that every attendee should be able to sample every wing, and if they think they can eat more than 20 chicken wings, they mustn’t worry. Lots of other people can’t.

“We’ve promoted it as an all-you-can-eat event, and it will be an all-you-can-eat event,” said Christine Pileckas, the arena’s director of sales and marketing.

Wingapalooza, a food event intended as a replacement for the underperforming Wichita Ribfest, will fill the floor of the Intrust Bank Arena bowl from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday. The arena borrowed the idea from Tulsa’s BOK Center, which is managed by the same parent company, SMG. Tulsa came up with the idea two years ago and sold out its first Wingapalooza. The second one happened last weekend.

Intrust managers liked the idea because it the addressed the complaints people had about Ribfest, an outdoor rib-eating event the arena introduced in 2012 and that ran for three years. Attendees paid an admission fee, then, once inside, purchased plates of ribs from national vendors. Arena mangers said people didn’t like that there were no local vendors and that they had to pay for food on top of paying for admission. The Ribfest never got the attendance the arena needed to make it work, and it was canceled after the 2014 event.

“We’re combating the two biggest complaints people had about Ribfest,” Pileckas said. “The only thing people pay for once they’re in is beer.”

Wingapalooza, which also is designed to bring people into the arena when it’s “dark,” which it often is during the summer, when more touring events are performing outdoors, has signed up 20 restaurants to prepare wings for the event, including The Anchor, Wingstop, Fox & Hound, Gianni Bacci’s, Wings & Things and more.

Each restaurant will have a booth, and the booths will be set up along the perimeter and in a line down the center of the arena’s floor. People can roam from booth to booth, sampling wings as they go. They’ll also find vegetables and dipping sauces, but no other food will be served.

Wingapalooza also will have a craft beer garden, with $5 draws. And a live DJ will provide music.

Local restaurants were excited to participate, Pileckas said, especially when they learned that the wings would be provided. They’re out only the cost of their time and seasonings, and they can use any that they want to make their wings unique.

They’ll also be competing for two trophies: The “Lord of the Wings” winner will be chosen by attendees. A judges’ panel also will pick a winner. (I’ll be one of the judges.)

“They (restaurants) loved the idea and loved that local restaurants were going to get to compete against each other,” Pileckas said. “And we have so many new restaurants popping up in Wichita. This is an almost free way for them to advertise and get their name out there.”

If You Go

Wingapalooza

What: An all-you-can-eat chicken wing event

When: 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday

Where: Intrust Bank Arena, 500 E. Waterman

How much: $20 in advance, $25 day of the event

Tickets: Available at www.selectaseat.com, by calling 316-755-7328, at the Intrust Bank Arena box office and at Select-A-Seat outlets

Information: www.intrustbankarena.com/wingapalooza

Participating restaurants: The Anchor, Douglas Avenue Chop Shop, Joe’s Old Town Bar & Grill, Wingstop, The Monarch, Wings & Things, Pizza Hut WingStreet, Delano BBQ, River City Brewing Co., The Hungry Heart & Whole Brewing Company, TGI Friday’s, Emerson Biggins Old Town, Lou’s Charcuteria & Cocktails, Firebirds Wood Fired Grill, Harvest Kitchen & Bar, Fox & Hound, Jayrod’s, Gianni Bacci’s, Savor, Oasis Lounge

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