Philadelphia's Wing Bowl celebrates gluttony

Fri Jan 30, 2009 3:03pm EST
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By Jon Hurdle

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters Life!) -- At 5 a.m. on a freezing January morning more than 15,000 Philadelphians crammed into a sports arena on Friday to witness the city's annual festival of gluttony and lust.

It's the Wing Bowl, a competitive-eating extravaganza in which 27 men try to eat the largest number of chicken wings in 30 minutes.

They are assisted by legions of bikini-clad young women called "Wingettes", and encouraged by a baying crowd which stayed up most of the night to take part in the spectacle.

Jonathon Squibb, a 23-year-old computer technician from Berlin, New Jersey, won the event and a $30,000 Mini Cooper after eating 203 wings without getting sick.

Squibb, who was unknown in competitive eating circles, beat better-known participants including the favorite, "Damaging Doug" Canavin of Philadelphia.

The Wing Bowl, timed to air live on the morning show of the WIP sports talk radio station that sponsors it, has become a major event in Philadelphia on the Friday before the Super Bowl. It was started in 1993 as a consolation for fans of the Philadelphia Eagles football team which usually fail, as they did this year, to qualify for the national championship.

Organizers can't explain why thousands of people endure freezing temperatures to attend the Wing Bowl.

"It isn't hard to understand, it's impossible to understand," said Al Morganti, the founder of the event and co-host of the WIP morning show.   Continued...

<p>Wing Bowl champion John "Super Squibb" Squibb celebrates after winning the 17th annual chicken wing eating contest in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, January 30, 2009. REUTERS/Tim Shaffer</p>