Wingapalooza repackaged amid COVID-19 pandemic concerns
Mitchell's annual chicken wing extravaganza moves to five locations over a two-month span.
The ninth annual edition of Wingapalooza will not pack the Corn Palace or offer green beer, but there also will not be a shortage of wings.
Mitchell Main Street and Beyond’s annual chicken wing festival became so popular over the last decade that it moved from the Masonic Lodge to the Corn Palace to accommodate business and wing connoisseurs. But the early spring Mitchell staple was postponed last March and Mitchell Main Street and Beyond deemed it unsafe to host in the Corn Palace due to the COVID-19 pandemic this year.
So, Wingapalooza will have a different look this year.
Rather than a one-day, one-stop wing-consuming event, Wingapalooza started Dec. 1 and runs through Jan. 30, with five participating locations — Blarney’s Sports Bar and Grill, Whiskey Creek, The Depot, Moose Lodge and Thirsty’s — in Mitchell.
“We had a lot of opinions in the mix and didn’t make a quick decision,” Mitchell Main Street and Beyond President Dan Beukelman said. “Ultimately, an event that puts people even in a spread-out space that’s with finger food and eating is not something we can pull off safely.”
To participate, a $30 booklet can be purchased at Blarney’s, Whiskey Creek, The Depot, Moose Lodge, Thirsty’s, Adorn Boutique, Cherrybee’s Floral and Gifts or online at MitchellMainStreet.com. Each booklet contains a coupon for six wings, while participants can vote on the hottest wing and best flavored wing and return the booklet to Mitchell Main Street and Beyond by Jan. 30.
In the past, as many as 15 businesses participated in Wingapalooza, but Mitchell Main Street and Beyond opted to limit the contest to five businesses in order to keep the cost of the booklet to a minimum.
“We did think about canceling it all together, but there’s a lot of people that look forward to the tradition of having it every year,” Beukelman said. “It is a fundraiser for Mitchell Main Street and Beyond. Budgets are tight for all organizations, so we’re looking to bring in some dollars to help Main Street.”
When the event was initially pushed back, there were thoughts of hosting over the summer, but the Corn Palace is not available during that time and any consideration of hosting it in conjunction with the Corn Palace Festival never materialized.
Hunting season was the target date at the Corn Palace, but the pandemic began to surge in the fall and it was deemed unsafe. Rather than canceling the event, it has been repackaged accordingly.
Beukelman feels starting in December allows people to use the booklet as a Christmas present. A two-month duration also does not force people to jam each stop into a small window of time and it allows restaurants to recoup costs since the wings are not sold at menu price.
If the current format takes off, it could be held in conjunction with the event when it returns to the Corn Palace in the future.
“It’s a good gifting opportunity for people,” Beukelman said. “Especially for people who love wings, you can spend $30 to get wings all over town. So, it fit the time of the year. We also pay the restaurants. When those cards get redeemed, we pay the restaurants so they can cover their costs. They’re bringing in people and hoping to sell them more stuff, so it’s beneficial to our members.”