Not just another party

Lauren Clairmont | Assistant Lifestyles Editor

Wings from several local eateries, cheap beer and live country music-not to mention a little friendly competition-equal out to a perfect afternoon in Carolina Beach. Or at least, the folks that headed down to the Boardwalk for the17th annual Wing Fling seemed to think so. They didn’t let the rain get to them, either; they wiped Texas Pete hot sauce on the sleeves of their raincoats, toasted to ‘Merica, and danced away the afternoon at Pi Sigma Epsilon’s, UNC Wilmington’s co-ed business marketing fraternity, annual fundraiser.

For almost two decades, the members of PSE have been hosting Wing Fling, a fundraiser that brings together local restaurants for a “best wings” competition. This year, the fraternity hoped to raise anywhere from $10,000 to $15,000 at their March 23 event, held in Carolina Beach for the third year in a row.

Almost two decades ago, Wing Fling started as an internship project. UNCW senior Sandra Miller wanted to obtain more real world experience in event planning as an extension of the skills gained during an internship. Already a member of PSE, she approached the club and asked them to help her out. Today, all active UNCW PSE members are required to help out with what has become their biggest annual event.

While the majority of Miller’s early help came from PSE members, a suggestion from Cameron School of Business staff member Linda Gum brought Wing Fling to the next level. When Gum found out about Miller’s project, she suggested she talk to her husband, Ron, on Miller’s behalf. Ron worked at the nearby Budweiser distributor, and both Gum and Miller understood the possibilities that could come of obtaining a sponsorship from such a big name company.

“Now Budweiser is a loyal sponsor,” said Kasey Mead, PSE member health and well-being chair for Wing Fling 2013.

Occasionally PSE catches some flak for hosting a 21 and over event in association with a university club, but the members are mindful of school regulations concerning advertising an event where alcohol will be served.

“We don’t have any advertising on campus that has the Budweiser sponsorship with it,” said Mead. “Budweiser is cautious about the event because they know it’s being put on by a college and not everyone is 21. They definitely go through the process of making sure everything is promoted correctly.”

However, on the whole, PSE receives widespread support.

“I’ve never encountered people off campus having a problem with it,” said Mead. “It’s promoting the local business of Carolina Beach, we’re using local Wilmington businesses, and it’s fun.”

“Wing Fling gives UNCW a good connection to the community and Carolina Beach,” said Lynnea Mallalieu, UNCW professor of marketing and PSE’s faculty advisor. “This is something that gets them out to a real community event.”

Every aspect of PSE student involvement is aimed at the overall goal of gaining real world experience. These experiences can range from talking to local businesses about sponsorship, to advertising with local radio stations, to making sure participating restaurants are up to date with their health inspections.

“While you’re working through it, it helps with your communication skills,” said Mead. “We have a PR team, advertising, web developer. It’s applied learning so it’s not just in the classroom.”

Students are in charge of the planning and implementation of the majority of the day’s events. Everything is passed through their faculty advisor, but the success of Wing Fling depends on the amount of work the students put into it.

“The ideas of what we’re doing, even up to the slogan for the year, are all products and ideas of students,” said Mead.

Unfortunately, sometimes, no matter the effort put in beforehand, some things just can’t be pre-arranged.

The day of the event, PSE members gathered for set-up at 8 a.m. It was raining. And cold.

“We didn’t have as many people show up as we would have hoped,” said Mead. “But especially with the rain and cold, it’s a bigger turnout than I expected.”

The wing competitors, beer distributors and other sponsors were the only ones given refuge under pop-up tents, however few among the crowd seemed put off by the rain.

Most in attendance were loyal Wing Flingers from years past. While waiting in line at the Shock Top, Goose Island tent, two 20-something men willingly shared their Wing Fling involvement.

“We used to go to UNCW, but we graduated,” said one. “We still have friends in the area, and now we come back every year.” He raised his empty beer cup in salute while his friend offered barbeque sauce off of his shirt to passersby.

Walking from tent to tent, this type of happy-go-lucky attitude could be seen among vendors and attendees alike. Maybe it was the beer.

When asked what it was like to be manning the rambunctious Kickback Jack’s tent, PSE member Courtenay Sherwood smiled.

“They think they’re going to win this year. All the girls [handing out wings] are volunteers,” Sherwood said. “They’re all really excited.”

Kickback Jack’s had reason to believe they’d win-they won last year. Featuring an original recipe for Honey Buffalo wings, one bite was enough to question if the other restaurants even had a chance.

But as it turned out, every booth brought something a little different, each one just as tasty as the last. And if the wing recipes and free flowing alcohol weren’t enough, the decorated tents definitely drew attention.

Many UNCW students recognized first-time participant Might As Well as they handed out wings in a pineapple jerk sauce. They playfully decorated their booth to reflect a “Jamaican, island living” theme.

Dressed in flapper dresses and suits, Brittany Becker, Elizabeth Guy and Ben Corbin brought the Roarin’ Twenties and “the end of prohibition” to Carolina Beach. These representatives from the popular downtown eatery Elijah’s made spicy honey wings with an Asian flair. They’ve been a part of Wing Fling for 15 years.

Rucker John’s handed out simple buffalo wings, but took their theme to the next level-nerd style. Suspenders, high-wasted pants and glasses were all the rage at this tent. At one point, they abandoned handing out wings to show off their own version of the Wobble.

Some other tents preferred to let the wings talk for themselves by choosing not to decorate their booths. Halligan’s Public House featured Parmesan garlic wings, while both the Dive and amateur competitor Eight Point Bar-B-Q raised the stakes with their multi-step wing cooking processes.

Boasting freshly smoked wings, Eight Point Bar-B-Q’s tent was manned by a four-person team consisting of Jim Andrews, his daughter, Eve, Eve’s friend, Alison, and Jim’s friend, Ash. As an amateur team, Eight Point BBQ was only allowed to make 500 wings, and didn’t appear on the day’s ballot. That didn’t stop them from competing, though.

“We’re not on the ballot, but write us in on the back” Eve Andrews said, handing out steaming wings.

Eve explained that the Bar-B-Q team isn’t associated with any restaurant or catering business, they just compete. For the last few years Jim and his team have been competing in local competitions.

“Last year, we got fourth in the barbeque cook-off in Carolina Beach,” Jim Andrews said.

He also shared the secret to his award-winning smoky barbeque wings.

“It’s a five-step process: brine, cover them in a Cuba mojo sauce, then they’re smoked for about an hour, grilled, then sauced with homemade sauce,” Jim Andrews said.

The Dive showcased another crowd favorite: “hot barbeque” wings, first fried, then grilled.

“It’s the best taste to have in your mouth when you’re done” they told passersby.

When all was said and done, Rucker Johns won Best Booth, Judges’ Choice went to Eight Point Bar-B-Q, and Peoples’ Choice was the Dive.

“But it’s not just a party,” said Daryl Dockery, executive director and youth advocate of Wilmington’s Residential Adolescent Achievement Place.

This is the fourth year in a row the majority of Wing Fling proceeds will go to WRAAP, which serves local children from high-risk communities.

PSE first heard about WRAAP from one of their sponsors.