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A Summer Tradition, WingFest Returns for Another Year at Tussey Mountain

by on July 02, 2018 12:03 PM

For nearly two decades, Thursday nights in the summer at Tussey Mountain have brought out the region's best purveyors of wings, local and national bands, and residents who get to enjoy it all.

WingFest returns to the mountain on July 5, the first of seven weeks of friendly competition among local restaurants vying to become the annual wing king as hungry crowds come out by the thousands to enjoy what has become a Happy Valley tradition.

"WingFest has really evolved over the years. It was just a small event on the patio and eventually grew out to the amphitheater and on the stage," Aaron Weyman, Tussey Mountain marketing director, said. "Even just four or five years ago it expanded from that one ski slope side to the other side as well. We have limited space out here but we use almost every inch of it because we have a lot of people that come out and enjoy spending the evening."

When the weather is good, WingFest draws up to 4,000 people on a given week. With the growth in crowds, Tussey Mountain is making some adjustments.

There will be a second entrance to get people in faster this year. Weyman said they've studied the lines and even at their longest it only takes attendees about 10 minutes to get in, "but that's still 10 minutes too long." As a small business, Tussey Mountain tries to balance how much staff it can hire for events with the knowledge that a rainy night could dampen the crowd.

"We want the crowd to continue getting larger, and if they do we’ll continue to make adjustments and changes," Weyman said. "We want people to get here, park and be able to get inside, claim their spot, meet their friends, get their food and really just enjoy the music and everything."

WingFest also is looking to offer more children's entertainment as well, and this year will have an upgraded bounce house with more features than the one last year, Weyman said. 

Each week brings up to six wing vendors from all across the region for attendees to sample and vote on. The weekly winners then square off on Aug. 16 to determine this year's champion. Past champions like the Hublersburg Inn and Bonfatto's will be looking to reclaim the crown, while some new entries, like Four Ways Pub from Bellefonte and Shy Bear Brewing in Lewistown, will be making their first appearance.

"It’s a lot of work for some these restaurants," Weyman said. "Some are small mom-and-pop shops. Others are larger and have corporate dollars behind them. But they all come out and seem to have fun. They’re really passionate about their sauces. They interact with customers and we hope they see some real positives for their business on the weekend going forward after their competition ends at WingFest."

And if you're looking for something other than wings, Doan's Bones BBQ, Packer's Concessions, Rosie's Pierogies, Rita's Italian Ice, The Weiner Wagon and Carl's Crazy Corn are on hand each week.

But WingFest's draw isn't just the food. Two bands perform every week, including some of the top local acts and nationally touring tribute bands.

Some of those tribute bands will be making their first appearance at WingFest, offering a mix tunes to enjoy. Popular local band Miss Melanie & The Valley Rats will kick things off at 6 p.m. on Thursday followed by the Dave Matthews Tribute Band at 8 p.m.

"Last year we had a Pearl Jam tribute band, which is probably one of the more modern tribute bands we’ve had out here," Weyman said "That worked well and we hope the Dave band will do the same, bring out some of the younger crowd."

July 12 will be a country-themed night, with Texas Whiskey Authority opening things before the Country Legends Tribute Tour takes the stage. The latter includes three separate tribute bands performing songs by Garth Brooks, Keith Urban and Zac Brown Band.

"I was trying to get a Garth Brooks tribute so I reached out and the stars aligned with their tour schedule," Weyman said. "They're also part of this tour with a Keith Urban tribute and a Zac Brown tribute, and we got all three for our country night."

They'll be followed by a classic rock-themed night, with local rockers Quarterstick and New York-based Bruce Springsteen tribute Bruce in the USA on July 19.

Ted & the Hi-Fi's and long-running Pennsylvania rock band Hybrid Ice take the stage on July 26. Then on Aug. 2, Frackwater Jack will be followed by Refugee: The Ultimate Tom Petty Tribute.

"It’s all good music," Weyman said of the tribute bands. "We think people will recognize the songs, even if they aren’t big fans of some of the musicians. It’s a good entertainment night for $5... You’re getting some very quality tribute bands where if they were playing at another venue it would probably be $30."

More popular local bands will round out the final two weeks. Burn Unit and My Hero Zero perform on Aug. 9 and for the finals on Aug. 16 a pair of heavy hitters -- Pure Can Sugar and Velveeta --  will play.

"We have a lot of talented local bands here," Weyman said. "Just for example the final week, [Velveeta and Pure Cane Sugar] are probably the two most popular bands in town, I’d guess, and we have them both out here performing the same night.

"The musicians that all play out here rave about the acoustics that bounce off the mountain. They love the way they sound and performing for large crowds. We think it’s a gem and one of the better things to do in Happy Valley. We’re ready to get it started again."

Admission for WingFest is $5 and free for children 12 and younger. Gates open at 5:30 p.m. and the event ends at 10 p.m. each week.

For more information and the lineup of wing vendors, visit tusseymountain.com/wingfest.



Geoff Rushton is managing editor for StateCollege.com. Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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