Late on a Friday night in 1964, Dominic Bellissimo was mixing drinks at his family's Anchor Bar in Buffalo, New York, when a few hungry friends arrived. Bellissimo asked his mother, Teressa, to scare up some chow for the crew, and the matriarch vanished into the kitchen, dutifully obliging. At around midnight Mama Bellissimo returned from the galley with two plates of spicy, saucy, deep-fried chicken wings -- a part of the animal normally reserved for the stockpot. The revelers went apecrap over the flappers, and Buffalo wings were thus born -- along with wing-eating in America.
As you may know, chicken wings have become our nation's favorite pub grub since that fateful night in 1964; more than 10 billion chicken wings are consumed in America every year. Sadly, the demand renders half as many chickens flightless and incapable of answering the telephone or signing their names on holiday greeting cards -- things we all take for granted. But we love them for their noble sacrifice! The wing is the perfect canvas for myriad sauces; the fleshy bends and crannies provide ideal points of adhesion. The wing is also a summary of every flavor the chicken offers. There is the succulent knob of dark meat on the drummie; the precious, scant sliver of moist white meat nestled between two parallel, flavor-bestowing bones at midwing; and there is the tip....O, the tip! When cooked to cracklin', the wing tip is chicken bacon, an unmatched rind of delight, an excuse to chew for one second.
Don't take one man's word for it. Experience the wing at the sixth annual Wing Ding from 4:30 to 8 p.m. You will see and taste 25 area restaurants' wing wizardry in the parking lot of the Bass Pro Shop in St. Charles (1365 South Fifth Street; 636-688-2500). Your $15 admission grants all-you-can-eat privileges, two drink tickets and the satisfaction of knowing that proceeds benefit Boone Center, a nonprofit organization committed to providing fulfilling employment for adults with disabilities. -- John Goddard
Tour de Katy
Complete the cycle
You promised yourself that this would be the summer of change: This would be the summer you put down the bag of Cheetos and the remote and went outside. But it's already June and there you sit, watching the LOTR trilogy, guilty orange fingerprints dotting the volume controls of the remote. Don't fret -- the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and the Missouri State Parks Foundation have your epic journey all planned out: the Katy Trail Ride 2004. It's a 225-mile bike ride through the Katy Trail State Park from Monday, June 21, through Friday, June 25, from St. Charles to Clinton, Missouri. Too epic for your first trip away from the couch? They've got that covered too: Day trips are available with daily distances ranging from 36 to 68 miles. Still more than your Cheeto-clogged muscles can handle? At least check out www.katytrailstatepark.com or call 800-334-6946 to start planning for next year. -- Amy Helms
Young guns shoot for a championship
As any devoted fan of the "Trophy Tuesday" lineup on the Outdoor Life Network can tell you, the shooting sports have never been more popular. Ignore all the politicizing and Michael Moore-alizing; for folks who hold their Second Amendment rights near and dear to their hearts, now is the golden age of shooting, what with all the televised events and the prize money and the chance to be featured on Shooting USA with firearms heartthrob Jim Scoutten.
If you crave the smell of spent casings, take a day trip to the MTA Gun Club (51 Trap Shooters Road in Lincreek, Missouri; call 573-346-2449 for prices) for the 2004 Missouri Scholastic Clay Target State Trapshooting Championships. High school-age men and women compete for the chance to represent Missouri at the nationals in Ohio (August 12 and 13, if you want to ask for the time off from work now). Competition begins at 10 a.m.; check out www.nssf.org for more information. -- Paul Friswold
Sorta Wild West
Don't worry, city folk -- the Wilderness Wagon is not some hay-filled wild ride that recklessly romps through the forest. Instead, it's the genteel wagon pictured above with shade, seats and narration for those who like the woods but don't want to hike too close to critters and poison ivy. Relax and roll through the beautiful expanse of the Shaw Nature Reserve of the Missouri Botanical Garden (Gray Summit, Missouri, off Interstate 44's exit 253; 636-451-3512); the wagon embarks hourly from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday (June 19, 20, 26, 27). Make a cheap outdoorsy day of it: Admission is $2 to $3 for those older than twelve, and the W.W.'s an additional $1 per person. All aboard! -- Alison Sieloff
Speed Away for Father's Day
Looking for some dirty, loud and high-speed fun this Father's Day? Then you need to go to Tri-City Speedway to check out the fast action on the half-mile dirt track (I-270 and Rte. 203, Granite City, Illinois). Mooney Starr's O'Reilly Mid-America Racing Series will kick off Tri-City's four-part Mountain Dew Late Model Summer Series -- special-event Sundays that are guaranteed short-track fun. Gates open at 5 p.m. and the racing begins at 7 p.m. Tickets will set dads back $18 to $20, but kids seventeen and younger will get in for $10 (call 314-469-9666 for tickets or 636-947-7287 to get the scoop). For more information, check out www.tricitymotorsports.com. -- Guy Gray