Cold temps, hot wings

Buffalo Wild Wings opens to line of wing lovers

They came from throughout the area with one goal in mind – a year’s worth of free wings from Alcoa’s newest restaurant, Buffalo Wild Wings.

For 100 people, that’s exactly what they got – wings for year. But what they also took home were memories from a night of standing in line and waiting for Hamilton Crossing’s newest restaurant to officially open.

In chatting with the individuals as they stood in line, some for more than 12 hours, it was easy to see this was about more than getting free food.

“We’re all having fun, plus it’s free wings,” David Hammontree of Maryville said. David was the first person in line.

Andrea Saylor of Alcoa said she and Hammontree were all alone in their quest for a long time on Sunday. As the crowd began to grow Sunday night, however, the restaurant team made the wait enjoyable with games.

“It is a lot of fun. We played trivia and made friends with a lot of the servers, and they were all great,” Andrea said.

Mandy and Jonathan Sitzlar came prepared. They brought a portable camp stove, kerosene heater and other supplies. “We had everything but a TV. We had heating sources so more people stood with us. It was fun because people were hanging out,” Mandy said.

Jonathan Sitzlar said everyone was playing trivia and cornhole beanbag toss. “It was just a good excuse to get people together,” he said.

Clay Bagby of Maryville said he enjoyed the company while waiting in line. One event intrigued him -- the Blazin’ Challenge. Contestants vied to see who could eat a dozen of the restaurant’s hottest wings.

“It was fun to hang out with friend and get wings. I got to do the Blazin’ challenge. I ate a dozen in 2 minutes-55 seconds, and it was hot.”

Tyler Merchant with Young Life of Maryville stood in line all night with three high school students he works with. “It’s fun to hang out and build relationships, and I love the wings,” he said.

J.D. Smither of Alcoa said since he is a teacher in Knox County, he was off for fall break so he could afford to stay up all night on a Sunday. “This is my fall break. I get to hang out with friends and get free wings. You can’t get better than that,” he said.

Trae Smith waxed philosophical. “Who doesn’t want free wings?” he said.

Isaac Parrish was focused on the wings while standing in line. “I believe in the power of tasty wings,” he said. “The atmosphere and the quality of the food are good, too,” he said.

Kenzie Lovingood of Sweetwater said she got in line after her friends the Sitzlars talked her into it.

Keith Edmonds said he convinced his boss at BB&T, Benita Claiborne, to let him off work so he could be one of the first 100 in line. “It’s free wings for a year so I talked Benita into letting me come in late,” he said.

At the official ribbon cutting, Mayor Don Mull said Alcoa was happy to see the new business. “We are fortunate to have Buffalo Wild Wings,” he said. “We’re glad they’re here.”

Teri Brahams, chair of the Blount County Chamber of Commerce, said it’s significant anytime a business is willing to make an investment in the community, adding that Buffalo Wild Wings is a good corporate citizen. “These are the type businesses we want to attract to Blount County,” Brahams said.

Buffalo Wild Wings manager Ryan Huml thanked everyone for waiting throughout the night to be first into the restaurant.

“It was freezing cold, but everything turned out great. We’ve got everything set. I’m anxious to get this rolling. I can’t wait,” he said as he watched the clock tick down just minutes before opening the doors.

Huml said the response was good from local residents who were invited to eat at the restaurant before it opened. “Normally 60 percent show and just about everybody showed up for the event,” he said.

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