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Wing Dang Doodle Festival combines chicken and blues

Forest — A wang dang doodle means having a good time, especially if you’re from the South, according to bluesman Willie Dixon. So, the folks at the Forest Area Chamber of Commerce put their own twist on it with a Wing Dang Doodle Festival, a celebration of two important things to the people of the community — chicken and blues music.

The celebration takes place September 18, from noon until 6 p.m. at Gaddis Park. Organizers figure they can’t go wrong combining a chicken wing cooking contest with blues music and lots of good food. The Wing Dang Doodle replaces the Broiler Festival, which was discontinued after 2002.

“The Broiler Festival did a wonderful job in the community, but we thought it needed to be revitalized and more in line with chicken,” said Gay Barnes, chamber president. “We hope the Wing Dang Doodle will show people in the area and around what we have to offer in Forest and Scott County.”

Barnes, who came up with the new festival name, said the Broiler Festival had good and bad years. It focused on big name entertainment, which she says is difficult to get now that casinos are bringing in big names.

Mitzi Breland, executive director of the chamber, said community leaders decided to take a step back and reevaluate the festival and how it fit in with the area. She said it wasn’t what leaders wanted it to be.

“We want the focus to be on the chicken wing cookoff and to give it a relaxed feel, a different type of festival so we started all over again after not having one in 2003,” she said. “We’ve purposely made it smaller but hope it will grow. It will be something better suited to our community.”

One change is that all food vendors will be non-profit community groups, keeping earnings at home instead of leaving with out-of-town vendors. For instance, Breland said the Boy Scouts will sell drinks and the Scott County Homemakers Club will sell desserts, along with others. The Junior Auxiliary will conduct children’s activities.

It’s a perfect fit for chicken to take a starring role with Scott County Mississippi’s largest poultry-producing county and the nation’s fifth largest, making it the state’s biggest agricultural crop. With big name poultry producers such as Tyson Foods, Choctaw Maid Farms, Koch Foods and Forest Packing Company operating there, the poultry industry employs thousands of people. Ancillary businesses that benefit from this industry employ many more.

“Wings have really gained popularity and we see cooking contests all the time on the Food Network and they look like a lot of fun,” Barnes said. “Each cooking team will receive 40 pounds of wings donated by the poultry industry.”

She said chamber officials visited other festivals, including the Ham Jam in Philadelphia and Red Beans Cookoff in Jackson, to get insight into putting on a cooking contest. There’s a September 1 deadline for cooking teams to enter and a $100 entrance fee per team. Visitors to the Wing Dang Doodle will buy $5 tickets to sample wings from five different teams.

There is no admission fee to the festival for anyone not tasting wings.

The chamber president, who runs King Lumber Manufacturing with her brothers, wants to keep the Wing Dang Doodle blues oriented as far as entertainment goes. She has attended the Greenville Blues Festival and took note of the crowds and media from all over the world.

“I don’t think we realize the magnitude the blues has had on the world,” she said.

Chad Wesley & the Cool Blue Band, a Scott County group, will also entertain.
A local artist, Kathryn Duncan, designed the Wing Dang Doodle logo, and chamber member D&S Embroidery has been designated as the official merchandiser. Barnes said D&S will embroider hats and aprons to sell at the festival and is considering a nice shirt with the logo, too.

For more information, call the chamber at (601) 469-4332 or visit the Web site at www.forestchamber.org.

While festival organizers hope to make money, Barnes said the first goal is to not go in the hole. “Until we can make some money, we can’t say what we’ll do with it, but I think we would probably put it back into upgrading the park to go along with what the Junior Auxiliary is doing there,” she said.

She said businesses and the community are showing great support for the Wing Dang Doodle and looking forward to a fun family event.

Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at mbj@msbusiness.com.


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