The Fraternal Order of Police came from behind to out-eat the fire department and win the inaugural Newark First Responders Wing Bowl on Saturday.
The event, which pitted two Newark Police Department officers against two Aetna Hose, Hook and Ladder Co. firefighters, raised money for Preston’s Playground, the handicapped-accessible playground planned for the base of the Newark Reservoir. More than 100 people showed up to Grain Craft Bar + Kitchen to watch the contest.
The fire department team jumped out to an early lead in the first round when firefighter John Weatherlow beat police Master Cpl. Jim Marconi, 15 wings to 12. However, the FOP came storming back in the second round, with Cpl. Brandon Walker polishing off an impressive 21 wings versus firefighter Scotty Mohler’s 14.
When the scores were combined, the FOP edged out Aetna by a total of 33 to 29 to take home the custom-made trophy, which featured a wing submerged in a glass of beer.
For Walker, it was his second time competing in a wing-eating contest – the first time, he came in second. He prepared for Saturday’s event by chewing Tootsie Rolls to strengthen his jaw and spent the first part of the day fasting.
He said the competition seemed to go by quickly.
“It was 5 minutes, so it was just go all out,” he said.
He expects it to be a couple weeks before he’s ready to eat wings again, adding that he is in no hurry to enter another eating contest.
“I think I’m going to retire on top, like Peyton Manning,” Walker joked.
Marconi gave all the credit to Walker.
“Give me two hours and I’ll eat more wings than anybody, but 5 minutes is tough,” Marconi said. “I knew Brandon would tear it up. I knew if I kept it close, he’d bring it home.”
Marconi said he enjoyed teaming up with the fire department, even though there was a fierce competition and some friendly trash-talking.
“We work together, so it’s nice to come out and do something against each other for a good cause,” he said.
Mayor Polly Sierer, who judged the eating competition, echoed those sentiments and added she hopes to make the competition an annual event.
“It’s a great partnership, from a community standpoint, between the FOP and Aetna,” Sierer said. “Both those organizations are very supportive of each other.”
Grain donated $1 per each wing eaten – by the competitors and the attendees – as well as bartender tips and proceeds from a 50-50 raffle and T-shirt sales. In addition, Sierer pledged to personally donate an additional $250 if the total number of wings sold exceeded 1,000. The total amount raised topped $2,400, according to Grain co-owner Lee Mikles.
The event is part of a series of fundraisers for the playground organized by Fusion Fitness owner Nic DeCaire. Named for Preston Buenaga, a 17-year-old Wilmington boy who has mitochondrial disease, the playground is meant to allow all children – regardless of disabilities – to play together in a safe, accessible space. It will cost an estimated $500,000 to build and will be paid for with donations and grants.
DeCaire remains confident the playground will be completed this fall.
“We’re going to make this happen for the children of this area,” he told the crowd Saturday.