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Strawberry cheesecake hot wings are a thing. Peanut butter and jelly wings are, too. Salted caramel wings? They got ’em. At the fifth annual Biggest Little Wing Fest July 1-2, cooks will be serving up wings of every flavor, from mild to temps that will put hair on your chest.

It all started as an event with local restaurants and caterers five years ago, and has grown to attract competitors from all over the country including California, Colorado and Montana. For this year’s fest, 20 wing cookers will participate all weekend long, competing for the best sauces and newfound fans. Silver Legacy Resort Casino hosts the festivities, and thousands of attendees are expected to get down with more than 20,000 pounds of chicken wings.

“We've got a phenomenal lineup of wing cookers that have come up with some incredibly inventive sauces for foodies to enjoy, and that alone is what makes this event so unique,” said Rick Murdock, vice president of sales and marketing for the Eldorado Resorts Reno properties.

The Biggest Little Wing Fest launched in 2013. By 2014, organizers said the festival nearly doubled its first-year attendance with 70,000 hungry wing fans. The event is expected to attract 80,000 this year.

The event is free to attend, and cookers are required to sell a three-piece sampler for $4 and can determine additional prices and food combinations on their own. Pacific Seafood will supply the more than 20,000 pounds of range-fed organic chicken wings.

Unique flavors

Indeed, flavors from festivals past include spicy buffalo garlic, maple bacon bourbon, dragon sriracha, habanero and lemon parmesan. In addition to wings, the Eldorado will be serving buffalo chicken wing pizza by the slice, chicken and fresh pineapple skewers, chicken pot stickers, sliders, fried calamari and cheeseburgers. El Jefe’s Cantina at Circus Circus Reno will serve chicken, carne asada and carnitas tacos.

This year’s Wing Fest will also feature free concerts from American Idol winner Trent Harmon (debut country single “There’s a Girl”) and The Voice winner and country-music rebel Craig Wayne Boyd. Harmon will perform July 1 at 8 p.m. and Craig Wayne Boyd will perform July 2 at 8 p.m.

Cookers are also vying for several titles, including Best Hot Wing, Best Sweet Wing, Judges’ Choice, People’s Choice and Celebrity Choice. First place for each category is $500 cash, second place is a two-night stay at the Silver Legacy and third place is a $75 Sterling’s Seafood Steakhouse gift certificate.

The celebrity choice panel will be made up of local media representatives, while for the People’s Choice award, all participating competitors will have a drop box at the People’s Choice Tent. Ballots must have three stickers from three different wingers, noting they tested at least three different wings, to be considered valid. From there, attendees must drop ballots off at official People’s Choice Tent.

For the Best Sweet Wing, Best Hot Wing, and Judges’ Choice honors, 20 judges per event day are nominated either by invitation from an event sponsor or general public sign-up. After the two days of judging, the votes are tallied and the winners will be announced Sunday near 6 p.m.

Tickets for the VIP “Hen House,” which includes all-you-can-eat festival foods like barbecue chicken, smoky pork ribs, grilled beef hot links, three kinds of wings, creamy cole slaw, red potato salad and assorted desserts, are available now. The VIP Hen House will be open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday of the event. Entry to the Hen House, which also includes beer, wine and assorted nonalcoholic drinks, start at $69.50 and can be purchased at SilverLegacy.com.

Festival hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. both days, and the event will also offer craft and memorabilia vendors.

Entertainment lineup

Saturday, July 1

  • Noon: Jason King Band
  • 2 p.m.: Jake’s Garage 5.0
  • 4 p.m.: Hellbound Glory
  • 6 p.m.: Spur Crazy
  • 8 p.m.: Trent Harmon

Sunday, July 2

  • Noon: Blue Eyed Floozy
  • 2 p.m.: Spur Crazy
  • 4 p.m.: Jake’s Garage 5.0
  • 6 p.m.: Hellbound Glory
  • 8 p.m.: Craig Wayne Boyd
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