On June 14, chicken wing lovers can ring-a-wing-ding and eat to their hearts' content, because the seventh annual Wing-Off festival kicks off in Meridian. Last year, around 300 people came away with full bellies and sauce-stained shirts after they attended the event put on annually by three barbecue-loving brothers from Boise. The brothers hold this event every June to celebrate the spicy hotness of their favorite food, and to compete with other barbecue masters. Just who are these barbecue boys, and why are they bringing the wings?
Curtis, Brett and Jason Hollingshead take their wing-off very seriously. Each brother has a love for barbecued chicken wings. Each also has a strong desire to outdo his brothers. What began on their patios with three grills and a lot of smack talk is now an annual event, drawing friends and like-minded wing addicts in droves. Brett Hollingshead was glad to talk about the motivation behind the festival.
"Originally, none of us felt there was a place in town that cooked really good chicken wings. Our duty is to do better," he said. "The fact is that so many restaurants are so commercialized and so many big places come in and take over. With us, we do it because we want to, we don't do it to make money. We feel we can offer something that no one else can."
The Hollingsheads happily throw their hot mitts down like a gauntlet, challenging any wing chef in town. And their festival does offer something not found elsewhere in Boise. With more barbecue recipes than even K.C. Masterpiece could boast, the wing-off offers a huge variety of wings from more traditional fare to wildly inventive creations.
This year, 20 cooks are committed to grilling wings, with some offering other items, including ribs, sausages and homemade jalapeno poppers. My favorite side dish from last year's event was battered and deep-fried dill pickles.
The festival is in Tully Park this year, which makes it perfect for a nice family picnic. The Hollingsheads encourage people to bring their kids, and you'll see plenty of families bringing their own food for their youngsters who prefer peanut butter and jelly over cayenne pepper.
Paper plates, napkins and utensils will be provided, but you are free to bring your own, or any other equipment you may need (Wet-Naps might be a good idea). The Hollingsheads request that people bring their own beverages, keeping in mind that Tully Park does not allow any glass. They also encourage bringing pop-up canopies, camp chairs, coolers and blankets to spread out. Live music is always a staple at the festival as well, and this year, Boise band Asphalt Buffet will be playing.
The Hollingsheads are open to new cooks joining in, so if you think you have a spicy sauce recipe, the brothers happily challenge you to bring it on. Contact them via their Web site to sign up for cooking space. Attendees are also invited to bring side dishes to share. There is no charge for attendance or for food, but there is a donation bucket on site to help the brothers offset park rental fees.
Brett advises attendees to "bring your appetite and your bib," so be prepared to get your eat on, and get good and dirty doing it.
June 14, noon, FREE, Tully Park, 2500 N. Linder Rd., Meridian. For more information, or to sign up to cook, visit chollingshea.com.