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Back You are here: Home Opinion Opinion Section Editorials Editorial: Family Oriented? Look At Wing Fling

Editorial: Family Oriented? Look At Wing Fling

By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
Managing Editor

I enjoy beer and wings as much as the next guy. To me it ranks right up there as American as Apple Pie. Recent zoning discussions have generated comments about "family oriented" activities practically demanded by our Land Use Plan.
If that's the case, is a 21 or older college-alcohol centric chicken wing cookout with bands confined in a small area by tall prison-like chain-link fencing and a port-a-john farm a "family-oriented" event?
Was the girl sitting on the public park bench last year drooling on her shirt, passed out, head hanging down, promoting a "family-oriented" atmosphere in the heart of our Central Business District?
The event caters to college students and charges for admission. People consume chicken wings and get their beer within the fenced in area while watching bands play on a stage. It blocks off the streets around the Boardwalk area eliminating public parking.
Many people arrive and leave in taxicabs. As soon as the event is over, they hop in cabs to head back to Wilmington.
Of course, you could question the "family-oriented" nature of the annual Beach Music Festival held on the beach in front of the Boardwalk.
Not the same.
Those festive people typically rent hotel rooms, vacation homes, and bring their families for a day of beach music at a festival where people can drink beer on the beach and buy food at Boardwalk establishments. Also, it's largely a different age group. It is "family-friendly". There's no age limit at the gate. You get an armband.
And I have yet to hear Danny, the owner of the Fat Pelican on Lake Park Blvd complain during the a Beach Music Festival about a girl squatting in his walk-in beer cooler to take a leak or people crawling over his fence after being denied entrance because they were too drunk. That was his complaint following last year's Wing Fling.  
That's another indicator of the difference between a college beer party with bands and wings (not very filling) and an event like the Beach Music Festival with adults and their kids.
Now this isn't a "zoning" ordinance related issue, but it stands to reason that if Council is held to a Land Use Plan that calls for family-oriented establishments, Wing Fling might be on the lower end of the "family-oriented" spectrum.
And that's not to say such an event is a bad idea. It's an excellent idea if held at the appropriate location or venue. But introducing business students to the wonderful world of event organizing by means of beer, bands, and wings is a little sketchy to say the least.
How about calling upon those students to focus on a true charity event such as the annual Lo-Tide run for cancer or some other event that is more focused on a broader participation group than those wanting to suck down beer and spicy chicken and don't drive to the event because one of the attractions is drinking lots of beer. This is the only event this Town permits on public property where one of the reassuring points is to set up contract rates with cab companies because they know their patrons will be too drunk to drive.
You won't see that at the Beach Music Festival, the Chowder Festival, the Step UP for Soldiers Backyard BBQ, the Lo-Tide Run, the Seafood Blues and Jazz Festival (with over 5,000 tickets sold) or even previous Beer Festivals at the Lake.
As of Monday February 25, there were five restaurants listed on their website for the event. None of those are located in Carolina Beach. If a local restaurant from the Boardwalk doesn't join in the event, then everyone will be eating food inside the fence from restaurant contestants north of Snow's Cut Bridge. None of those have "brick-and-mortar" investments in Carolina Beach. And that's something this Council and previous Council's have voiced a concern about when considering events or proposed businesses. 
Why hasn't Domino's and Pizza Hut signed up? How
about Hooters? All with chicken wing reputations and plenty of corporate dollar-power. Either they don't need the promotion or they don't want to participate.
This event has a history. It was at Hugh McCrae Park (a county park) and were told not to return. They moved to the Battleship Park.
Then they wanted to move to an area in Downtown Wilmington. Wilmington denied that move. So at the last minute they convinced elected leaders to allow them to move into a stockade fence in the heart of downtown Carolina Beach with lots of law enforcement. More officers than any other annual event.
Some businesses say they welcome the traffic after the event ends.
Others have complained about various issues.
The question becomes, what is our community getting out of this endeavor? They gave around $4,000 to the senior center one year. Maybe that charitable pay-off warrants permitting the event.
While largely uneventful, it's because there's a lot of law enforcement hired to police the event and they try to expel people before problems arise. But it only takes one spark to ignite a powder-keg and that potential alone can have an impact on the family friendly atmosphere of the area.