After nearly two decades of recognizing restaurants that serve Hilton Head Island's best chicken wings, the Island Recreation Association on Hilton Head Island wants to give local homecooks a chance to put their best wing forward.
For the first time in its history, the organization's Wingfest is hosting an amateur chicken wing contest, an event it has added to the Pre-WingFest Party on the evening of March 22. The party also includes live music and local restaurants serving up chicken wings and other, non-poultry related fare.
"We really saw the amateur contest as a way to give local residents a place to showcase their culinary experience even if they don't have a restaurant," said Lacey Simoneau, event spokeswoman. "We also saw it as a draw to get people to the Friday night event."
The amateur contest is limited to 15 participants, who must supply their own cooking equipment, serve a minimum of 150 wings and can offer only one flavor of wing to the judges, who will begin tasting the submissions at 6 p.m., according to organizers.
The amateur contest is the latest addition in recent years to the massively popular event, which is in its 18th year. Six thousand pounds of chicken wings are served and more than $20,000 is raised for the Island Rec Association's Scholarship Fund each year. Organizers expect about 5,000 people to attend the event this year.
Last year, Wingfest added an extra night to the weekend's festivities, which was conceived as a mini-Wingfest with several restaurants serving different flavors of wing sauce, and Hilton Head restaurant Street Meet served up hamburgers and hot dogs.
The official Wingfest runs from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. March 23 when nearly two dozen restaurants will vie for the honor of serving the island's best chicken wing.
Last year's winners included offerings from The Big Chill, Giuseppi's Hilton Head at Shelter Cove Plaza, Wild Wing Cafe. One Hot Mama's took home the People's Choice Award.
Follow reporter Patrick Donohue at twitter.com/IPBG_Patrick.