Just wingin’ it
Gowanda teacher takes 6th place at wing eating contest
BUFFALO — As competitive eating superstar Joey Chestnut takes the stage for the United States Chicken Wing Eating Championship, he waits with a stern, serious face.
“Buffalo” Jim Reeves is ready as he takes five small hops. In front of him stands a foil container that contains a mountain of chicken wings, which stands between him and the championship.
The Boston, New York native and Gowanda Central School teacher chows down with nine friends turned short-term opponents for 12 minutes, and after those 720 seconds, Reeves engulfed 109 chicken wings, or around 3.5 pounds of meat.
It was a respectable number, but that landed the Western New York eater in sixth place, in comparison to the winner Chestnut, who ate 220 wings, over 5.7 pounds of meat.
“There’s no screwing around man, we don’t screw around,” Reeves said of his straight-faced demeanor as the competition neared. “I mean, you are spending a lot of time and money; you’re prepared for this. It’s like anything else. You don’t want to go out and do a crappy job. You’re representing the city and you got your family here. You don’t want to go out there and come in last.”
For Chestnut, it’s another title to have around his belt. His victory came by way of a 38-wing drop off from first to second. Chestnut does it again, like he did on July 4 for the hot dog eating competition.
“Feels great to be back in Buffalo and win,” Chestnut said. “I love this contest.”
Chestnut ate 18.3 wings per minute. Though many could say that feat seems achievable, try to keep that pace for 12 minutes straight. So, how do you compete with that?
“You don’t,” Reeves jokingly said. “That’s why I am No. 20 and not No. 1.”
Reeves has been a cog at Buffalo’s Wing Fest every single year since it started. The OBSERVER previously reported that Reeves came to the first event ever and asked to jump on stage for the amateur eating contest. After placing in the top three, Reeves was invited to join the professionals the next day and thus began the story of “Buffalo” Jim Reeves.
Reeves holds the title for eating watermelon at 13.22 pounds and pork rinds as a competitive eater.
“I know he’s having fun and I know he’s doing something he loves to do, so we just want him to do well and do the best he can,” said Jim’s wife Terri Reeves, “and we support him.”
Throughout the 12 minutes on Sunday, the wing eating contest got uglier and messier. Chestnut squeezed water down his throat as some came back out like a geyser. Jim Reeves had his Gatorade by his side to wash down the wing remnants and it got so messy that not only was there wing sauce from fingertip to palm, but there was even sauce on Chestnut’s calf.
During the marathon, announcer George Shea didn’t know who was ahead. Despite hearing that it is seemingly a neck-and-neck battle, Chestnut is unfazed and focuses on his wings at hand.
“It’s hard to tell how you’re doing compared to the other people,” Chestnut said. “I felt like I was cleaning the bones pretty good and I was moving really fast. But you can never tell until they weigh it all out.”
As for Jim Reeves, the Gatorade was specifically chosen. No, not for a sponsorship to go on live TV, but to combat the lack of flavor.
“Almost everybody drinks some kind of fruit juice or flavored water just because, believe it or not, one of the things that happens is that you get flavor fatigue,” Jim Reeves said. “And chicken wings can be your favorite food in the world and after two minutes of eating as fast as you can, you start to get a sour taste; it’s really bad and it can throw you off your game.”
The Gowanda pride in eating did not win, but still brought smiles to the village and all who know him. From seeing athletes that are loud and proud in the audience to bringing his family all across the United States and more, there is still something special for Jim Reeves to compete in his hometown of Western New York.
“It’s like eating Thanksgiving dinner, except in 12 minutes instead of an hour and a half,” Jim Reeves said. “It’s hard to eat wings fast for 12 minutes; it’s an awfully long time.”
Reeves will compete in Toronto for the World Poutine Eating Championship on Oct. 14.