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A crowd of about 4,500 came out to sample a variety of wing flavors at the fourth annual Roanoke Wing Fest. The event raises money for Brian Injury Services of Southwest Virginia.
Saturday, August 24, 2013
Mark Banks of Roanoke admitted to a certain fondness for the festival’s centerpiece food item.
“I’m about ready to grow wings,” Banks said.
He and Maurica Jackson made a special trip downtown Saturday for the fourth annual Roanoke Wing Fest, a celebration of the chicken wing cooked in all sorts of ways. Banks was on a lunch break from his job at the Salem Veterans Administration Medical Center. He and Jackson stood in line to sample wings from Allsports Cafe, one of several wing sellers set up on Jefferson Street near Elm Avenue.
Todd Carlisle of Roanoke County came with his parents, girlfriend and son. Like Banks, Carlisle confessed to being a chicken wing consumer extraordinaire.
“I could eat them all day,” he said.
The Roanoke Wing Fest raises money for Brain Injury Services of Southwest Virginia, a nonprofit group founded in 2000 that helps victims of traumatic and acquired brain injuries. Based in Roanoke, Brain Injury Services has offices also in Abingdon, Blacksburg, Norton and Wytheville.
Mae Johnson, the organization’s director of development and marketing, said the 2012 event raised about $30,000.
“It is our largest fundraiser of the year,” Johnson said.
Soon after the festival began Saturday morning, McKenna Smith and Kendall Chamberlain had sampled wings from Kroger and Smokey Bones Bar and Fire Grill. The women said they were happy the proceeds supported a good cause.
Brain Injury Services volunteer Jore Cooper-Garrett of Vinton helped staff a booth selling soft drinks and bottled water.
Cooper-Garrett said her daughter was 21-years-old when she suffered a brain injury after a motorcycle crash. Her daughter was not wearing a helmet, she said, and suffered injuries that affected her cognition and emotional responses.
Brain Injury Services has been an invaluable source of support and resources, Cooper-Garrett said, with services that include providing life skills training, help with navigating the health care system and assistance finding a job for her daughter, now 28.
“That’s helped her more than anything,” she said.
Krystal Thompson, Brain Injury Services’ executive director, said the organization’s service area in Southwest Virginia covers about 11,000 square miles. And within that territory she said “there are 18,000 people living with a disability because of brain injury.”
Meanwhile, the wing vendors offered eaters a variety of recipes.
Steve Alls is divisional executive chef for Kroger Mid-Atlantic. He said seven chefs from stores in the Roanoke region were at the event, competing against each other and other wing vendors. The Kroger recipes included grilled smoke honey mustard, maple bacon Sriracha, spicy avocado, Jamaican jerk and medium traditional buffalo.
Allsports Cafe offered six varieties, including blackened sweet honey and Tennessee bourbon.
Randy Klampfer and Jason Miller, both from Bedford, each held a cup of beer.
“We’re sampling the beer first,” Miller said. “We had to prepare our palates.”
Miller said he cooks wings at home and “experiments a little bit with recipes.”
Klampfer explained the appeal of chicken wings.
“It’s finger food while you’re hanging out, watching sports, being social,” he said.
Festival judges deemed Allsports Cafe the overall winner of the wings competition. Corned Beef & Co. took second place and Buffalo Wild Wings was third.
By late afternoon, the crowd was up to about 4,500 people, a total that exceeded numbers in previous years, according to Elliot Broyles, vice president of Roanoke-based Sponsor Hounds, which produced the event.
One woman entered the festival with a pink T-shirt that read, “PETA — People Eating Tasty Animals.”
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