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PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - More than 17,000 mostly beer-fueled spectators packed a Philadelphia indoor arena on Friday for the city's annual early morning eating extravaganza in which competitors vie to eat the most chicken wings.
Japanese champion Takeru Kobayashi, weighing just 127 pound (xx kilos) defeated his much larger opponents in the 20th annual Wing Bowl and walked away with a $20,000 prize after devouring a record-breaking 337 chicken wings during the 30-minute contest.
He easily smashed the previous record of 255 wings set by Jonathan "Super Squibb" Squibb, who had won the celebration of gluttony the previous three years, and defeated local favorite Bill "El Wingador" Simmons, a five-times champion who weighs 330 pounds.
For Gary Gladwell, 53, of Bucks County in Pennsylvania, the important event for competitive eaters was part of his birthday celebration.
"This is my first time here. I can take it off my bucket list now," he said, adding "It's definitely an experience."
The Wing Bowl is held at the Wells Fargo Center each Super Bowl weekend by WIP, a sports-talk radio station, which came up with the idea almost two decades ago as a consolation prize for fans of the Philadelphia Eagles when they fail, as they have this year, to advance to the Super Bowl.
Gladwell and his brother John, 49, of Lawrenceville, New Jersey paid $10 per seat to the extravaganza which began with a parade of small floats and scantily clad women, known as "Wingettes," each touting the eating prowess of the 26 professional eaters.
"We can't get a championship here, so we might as well have fun and I have the day off," said Pennsylvania resident Bill Cheatham.
David Allan, a pop culture expert at St Joseph's University in Philadelphia, described the event as "an indoor tailgate party."
Because it begins so early many fans of the Wing Bowl, which is aired lived on WIP, arrive in the middle of the night
"What they've done," he said of the Wing Bowl promoters, "is to make it an event not to miss. Something might happen at the Wing Bowl and you're going to want to be there."
Competitors do stunts to impress he judges but the main event is the chicken wing eating contest, which is done in two 14-minute elimination rounds and a two-minute "Wing Off.".
Christian Collazo, 33, of Philadelphia, said he showed up just for the experience.
"Last year I went to Mardi Gras. This is another thing to take off my list," he said.
Reporting by David Warner; editing by Patricia Reaney