About 150 people attended Wing Bowl I in 1993 to see a competition between two contestants in a hotel ballroom. Last year, over 20,000 witnessed 29 contestants do battle in the city’s largest sports arena.
Wing Bowl is part sport, part circus, and all entertainment. The event pits competitive eaters in a chicken wing eating contest. The Wing Bowl is traditionally held on the Friday preceding the Super Bowl. The event, which began as a radio promotion, has grown to encompass television, the Internet, and a contest for women called “the Wingettes.”
Wing Bowl was the brainchild of WIP radio host Al Morganti, who came up with the idea when it became apparent the Philadelphia Eagles were not going to make the Super Bowl anytime soon. The first Wing Bowl was held in the lobby of the Wyndham Franklin Plaza Hotel in Center City. Carmen Codero walked away with the inaugural title, receiving a hibachi as his prize.
Entry into Wing Bowl can be gained in two ways, the first of which is successfully performing an “eating stunt” on air during The Angelo Cataldi Show at the 610 WIP studios in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania, with Al Morganti as judge. Stunts have included eating 20 cups of cooked oatmeal, eating 60 ounces of creamed spinach with 60 ounces of hot sauce, and eating five Big Macs.
The stunt must be completed within a time limit negotiated between the contestant and Morganti. Morganti, known to be a tough judge, has disallowed stunts that involved what he considers “cheating”, such as dipping bread into a beverage to make it easier to swallow, or breaking up a food item into constituent parts for easier chewing (such as separating hot dogs from their buns).
The other way to gain entry to Wing Bowl is to win a “Wingoff.” A “Wingoff” is a 10 minute eating contest held at an area retail location. The winner of these “Wingoffs” gain automatic entry into the Wing Bowl.
Former Philadelphia Mayor and current Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell attended Wing Bowls II, III, IV and VI, where he presented the winner with a “Liberty Bell” trophy. Other celebrities who have appeared include retired heavyweight boxer Randall “Tex” Cobb, former 76ers President Pat Croce, former Phillies manager Larry Bowa, U.S. Senator Arlen Specter, and others. Major-league umpire Eric Gregg served as the “Commissioner” of Wing Bowl from its second year until his death from a stroke on June 5, 2006. On December 4, 2006, it was announced that Pat Croce will be the new commissioner.