BY FELICIA PERRETTI They call him Kid Knish. I call him dad. On January 28th 2000, he was a wing-eating competitor in Wing Bowl VIII. He was always the outgoing, fun one in the family and this event was just another chapter in his otherwise ordinary surburban dad life in Roslyn. My dad was never the strict parent; he always knew how to have a good time. The first time he went to the Wing Bowl, he was just a spectator. This would be 1999, and back then it was at the Spectrum and it was free to get in. Instantly my dad was hooked on the craziness. Before it was over, he turned to his buddies and declared, “I’m gonna be in this next year!” To be a contestant in the Wing Bowl you must complete an eating stunt in an allotted time down at the 610WIP sports radio station. Since my dad works at a Jewish deli, he thought it would be different to eat an authentic Jewish food. His stunt was completed in 30 minutes, which was eating 6 1/2 lbs ofgefilte fish and drinking the juice from the container. It looked as gross as it sounds, but he did it.
Me being younger at the time I only understood the basics of the event, which was to eat as many wings as possible while being timed. I thought it was the coolest thing because my dad was the local “celebrity” of Roslyn. My dad actually trained for the competition and wound up taking 6th place. He also out-ate El Wingador, who later enjoy a glorious reign as Wing Bowl champion three years in a row and later parlay his local celebrity into a hot sauce business. Afterwards, I vowed to one day follow in my father’s footsteps and compete. To be on stage in front of 20,000 people eating wings while the crowd goes nuts — talk about an adrenaline rush. To be able to trigger that massive, Spectrum-shaking roar just by shoving buffalo wings down your neck is the closest you can get to rock stardom without strapping on a guitar. My dad has gone every year since he has competed and I have even started to tag along. It’s kind of a father-daughter thing.
Now, I know some people roll their eyes at this event, but that’s because they just don’t understand. Over the years, Wing Bowl has drawn more and more professional eaters, which helped draw bigger and bigger crowds. Eventually they started charging admission, and still they came. The entourages and the showmanship of each competitor has also become more elaborate over the years: fog machines, inflatable dolls, you name it. But they never fail to impress. In addition, prizes have improved dramatically over the years. Back when my dad competed, they were not giving out vacation getaways or cars like they do now.
Half the fun of Wing Bowl is the crowd. On either side of your seat is a drunk guy spilling their beer and cursing out the security guard — the pre-party in the parking lot starts in the middle of the night before — or a girl flashing the entire stadium. You just sit there eating your spicy hot-sausage-and-peppers hoagie with a cold Lager in your hand and a big smile on your face while you soak it all in. I’m a lifer. I have been a spectator in the seats, I have been in the entourage of a contestant, and this year I will be experiencing it through my camera. This kind of spectacle may not appeal to everyone but for those who want to live a little this is definitely the place to be. My only advice is people with a weak stomach should not attend. You are bound to see some one puke their guts up.