PHILADELPHIA, Feb 5 (Reuters) – About 18,000 people turned out before dawn on Friday for the 18th Wing Bowl, an eating competition dubbed the world's biggest, and an annual celebration of Philadelphia's raucous sports-crazed culture.
Jonathan "Super Squibb" Squibb, a 24-year-old accountant from Berlin, New Jersey won the contest for the second consecutive year after eating 238 wings, just three short of the record, without vomiting.
He defeated nearly 30 other male finalists who competed in an indoor sports arena in a bid to eat the most chicken wings in two 14-minute rounds, capped by a two-minute "wing-off."
Each competitor was attended by a posse of wingettes, scantily clad young women who fetched the wings and mopped the brows of the contestants to the delight of the overwhelmingly male crowd.
Wingettes also competed with each other to attract roving jumbotron cameras by exposing various parts of their anatomy and encouraging the few female members of the audience to do the same.
"There's all sorts of wild behaviour that I can't describe because the law won't allow me to," said Angelo Cataldi, a host of WIP 610, the sports talk radio station that started the event 18 years ago as a consolation prize for fans of the Philadelphia Eagles football team when they failed to qualify for the Super Bowl.
Contestants also competed with each other for the largest bodies, the silliest aliases, and the most outlandish eating feats to qualify for the final.
Ryan Zarzycki, who is also known as The Polish Assassin, ate 12 perogies and eight inches of kielbasa sausage in three minutes, while Adam Taxin, a 205-pound (93 kilos) Philadelphian known as The Hungry, Hungry Hebrew, consumed 30 latkes in five minutes.
As the crowd roared, contestants entered the arena on homemade floats with an entourage of wingettes and people adorned in angel wings, tasseled bikinis, mardi gras masks and sequined gowns.
"This is our indoor mardi gras," said Bill "El Wingador" Simmons, a five-time winner. "It's the biggest eating event in the world."
Simmons, 48, said the overall standard of the competition has improved since his victories, with more people able to eat more wings.
"You have a better quality of eater," he said. "These young guys are putting it away."
But some could not take the frantic pace.
The Wing Bowl's best-known rule is: "You Heave, You Leave."