2014 Toronto Wings Festival Attendance Doubles

by Pandora Angelique Lee
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Thousands packed the Daniel Spectrum on May 4, 2014 for the third annual Toronto Chicken Wing Festival.  Hosted by the Rotary Club of Toronto Skyline, all of the proceeds from this festival were contributed to their charitable projects: Ghana Medical Help and Nyaya Health in Nepal; Project Stitch in Haiti; Isangha Water Project in Tanzania; and local charities including Fort York Food Bank, and Regent Park Community Center.


Photograph by Ingrid Goh. Festival attendees enjoy their wings

The Festival organizers faced two challenges: overcoming the foul taste recently left by the grilled cheese festival and the competing basketball Playoff Game 7 between the Toronto Raptors and the Brooklyn Nets.  Organizers successfully restored the confidence of food festival attendees by staggering the entry tickets.  V.I.P. entry was 1:00 and general admission was 1:30.  Although there was evidence of a line up along Dundas Street E, attendees indicated that they waited an acceptable 10-15 minutes.  Similar wait times were experienced at each of the food booths during peak periods while wings were freshly prepared.  Organizers were able to stream the basketball game on screens throughout the festival venue so that the crowd were able to cheer and jeer while enjoying their wings and beer.

Outdoor screenIndoor screenIndoor screen

In addition to early entry and additional drink tickets, V.I.P. ticket holders received a swag bag containing coupons to each of the vendors, key chain, Frank’s Red Hot sauce, Zipcar coupon.


Photograph by Ingrid Goh. 2014 Toronto Chicken Wing Festival swag bag

Despite the organizer’s fears, the wing festival was attended by 2,000 individuals this year–more than double the attendance of the previous year.  Organizers noted that the number of attendees has been doubling since the festival’s inception.  At the rate that the numbers are growing, the festival has the potential to grow as big as the National Buffalo Wing Festival in the United States which includes 30 contestants.

This year 18 competitors vied to see who’s wing was king: Aft Kitchen & BarClassic Wing & Burger Co., Drums N FlatsHard Rock CafeHootersHurricanes Road HouseLou Dawg’sPogue Mahone, Rally Sports Bar & SmokehouseSandoozlesShark Club,  Smoke Bourbon Bar-B-Q HouseSt. Louis Bar & GrillTara InnThe Office PubThe Pilot, The Pour House, and Whistler’s.  Chicken wings were cooked on site.  Contestants brought smokers, deep dryers, and grills and prepared tasty wings under the watchful eye of a Toronto Public Health Inspector who said that even through this was a young festival it was well organized.

See here for competitor’s menus and weekly specials.


While the wings were flying out to attendees, nine judges evaluated the wings with their discerning palates.  Wings were judged in a blind taste test based on their taste, originality, complexity, and appearance.  The 2014 judges were Bob Blumer, Food Author, TV Host; Nobu Adilman, TV Personality, Food Blogger, Co-Director Choir! Choir! Choir!; Gregory Macdonald, Sloan Keyboardist, Chef; Halla Rafati, PR Director for Four Seasons Hotel Toronto; Nicki Laborie, Founder & Director, View the Vibe; Valarie Wafer, District Governor, Rotary Club District 7070; Raina Douris, Music Director & Afternoon Drive Host, Indie88; Tony Glitz, Two-Time Toronto Wing Festival Champion, Owner Speducci Fine Foods; and Dave Sidhu, Owner, Playa Cabana.  They were responsible for picking the winners in five categories.  Judge Halla Rafati said that in preparation for the event, she went to the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, home of the original buffalo chicken wing, to taste authentic buffalo wings.


Photograph by Ingrid Goh. 2014 Toronto Wing Festival Judges.


Photograph by Ingrid Goh. 2014 Toronto Chicken Wings Festival Judges hard at work.


Attendees selected the People’s Choice award winner by dropping a token into the bag of their favourite vendor.

People's Choice Voting StationVoting Tokens

Bob Blumer was thrilled to return as the Master of Ceremonies for the Festival and announced the winners for each of the categories.


TaraInnJudges’ Favourite Classic Wing:


  1. Tara Inn
  2. Shark Club
  3. The Pour House


AfTKitchenBarJudges’ Favourite BBQ Wing:

  1. AfT Kitchen & Bar
  2. Hurricanes
  3. Hard Rock Café


SandoozlesJudges’ Favourite Dry Wing:

  1. Sandoozles
  2. AfT Kitchen & Bar
  3. Lou Dawg’s


PogueMahoneJudges’ Favourite Exotic Wing:

  1. Pogue Mahone
  2. The Pilot
  3. The Office Pub


PogueMahone2Judges’ Favourite Sweet Wing:

  1. Pogue Mahone
  2. Drums N Flats
  3. The Office Pub


HurricanesPeople’s Choice for the Best Wings:

  1. Hurricanes
  2. The Pilot
  3. The Office Pub


In addition to the live stream basketball game, two bands supplied entertainment.  Two bands, Maoláin and Stone River, rocked the venue’s outdoor stage and the amplified music echoed throughout Regent Park.



Photograph by Ingrid Goh. Members of the Rotaract Club

Kevin Quan, Chair of the 2014 Toronto Wing Festival thanked the 18 competitor, without whom the festival would not have been possible. Event sponsors Steam Whistle Brewery, PepsiCo Canada, Zipcar, Indie88, and Yo Sox were also acknowledged.  He thanked the volunteers, who efforts contributed to a successful festival.  He finally thanked attendees for making this year’s festival “bigger and better than previous years”.  He succinctly summed up the festival as “eating good wings and doing good things”.


Photograph by Ingrid Goh. 2014 Toronto Wing Festival Organizers Sarah Brown, Kevin Quan, and Graham Greenland


2014 Wing Fest by Numbers:

  • 18 competitors
  • 2000 attendees
  • >5400 lbs of chicken wings
  • 9 judges
  • 6 winners
  • 3 screens streaming Toronto Raptors basketball game
  • 2 bands





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