Tropic Hut Returns To
2013 Biggest Little City Wing Fest -
This Time As A Wings Cooker!
Downtown Reno, July 4 - 6, 2013
We did more business each day of this three day event than we did in in the entire event last year! We also
had a fire in the booth, and we discovered a foxy new spokes model. And we worked harder and longer than
at any other event we can remember. Becoming a wings "cooker" for The Wings Cook-Off was huge.
This is the fifth time Tropic Hut has been in a Reno Wings Cook-Off. We did quite well at the four previous events, but Jarvis couldn't help wishing we were in on all the action the wings cookers got. As you can see in these pictures, folks line up from one side of the street to the other to buy samples of chicken wings.
After weeks of research, designing and planning, Jarvis went on a big shopping spree to buy the equipment needed for prepping, cooking and saucing chicken wings. As usual, most of the shopping was done online. (Almost everything in the Tropic Hut stand was purchased through eBay or Craigslist.)
We also needed new signage for our new menu items. Do you like the new wings banners on the left in this photo? We tried using a picture of a chicken wing but it looked like a brown smudge from a distance. So Jarvis found the picture of a pretty hula girl instead and just reversed it horizontally to give the "bookends" effect on the banners.
Here's the extended portion of the stand, where chicken wings are cooked and sauced. In this photo we see Colleene and Kole saucing wings for some eager customers.
The Wing Cookers were grouped together and lined up side by side in the central area of the Biggest Little City Wing Fest. That meant we had other Cookers right next to us on both sides. We didn't mind. We know how much better Tropic Hut looks than other stands! ;-)
Here's a video demo of our wing saucing system.
(This is how we're so much faster at serving wings than other
Cookers, even those who have been doing this for years!)
There's the famous Reno Arch in the background with the famous Reno Wing Cook-Off crowds underneath.
Biggest Little City Wing Fest Judging Area - we Cookers brought samples of our wings to this tent each day of the event.
One of the nice girls from the Silver Legacy staff smiles and waves from the People's Choice voting area. This is where attendees to the event could vote on their favorite Wing Cookers. Those ridiculously huge trophies were the awards for winners of the five categories of competition.
There were twenty Wing Cookers at this years inaugural Biggest Little City Wing Fest.
Tropic Hut didn't win a trophy, but we didn't really expect to. Sure, it would have been terrific to win something, but this was our very first wings competition. Let's not get ahead of ourselves.
We may not have won a trophy according to the judges, but we're plenty satisfied to know we beat most of the Cookers in sales. After the event, Jarvis found out Tropic Hut was one of the top four Cookers in sales volume. We sold 24 cases of wings. Each case weighed 40 pounds, which means we went through 960 pounds - almost half a ton of wings! The top volume Cooker only sold 3 more cases than we did, and they've been at this game almost a decade.
Live stage at Fourth and Virginia Streets
Redneck Wings - Not sure where these folks are based.
We see this stand at several events in Northern Nevada.
Island Ice - Now here's a familiar stand. We've been seeing this guy and his little blue and white trailer since we first started in the vendor business back in 2006. His theme and products are similar to Tropic Hut's, but different enough that we're friends, even if we are competitors. He was amazed to see our huge expansion into Chicken Wings.
Thumbs up from Dave at Eldorado's Street Bar! Dave and I served time together. Nyuck, that's my way of saying we worked together at horrible Harrah's. That turned out to be the worst job experience of my life. It obviously wasn't the best for Dave, either, since he's much happier now as the Beverage Director at Eldorado.
Tropic Hut has a new Spokes Model!
This is Le Audi, a girl with a personality as cute as she is.
See for yourself in this video.
This is the Tropic Hut wings cooking area. Why do we have portable propane stove tops? Jarvis had the idea of "brining" and boiling the wings before they went into the fryer This was supposed to accomplish two things; make the wings more tender and juicy and allow us to cook them much faster than by using the fryer alone.
Jarvis bought these two counter-top stoves online. They worked perfectly, reducing the time wings had to spend in the fryer from 15 minutes down to 5 minutes.
The trouble happened late in the first day of the event. Apparently, the stove on the right was damaged slightly in shipping. One of the burner elements had been jarred loose, which allowed a little propane gas to leak out underneath the unit. Eventually, this leaking gas caught fire....
It was Val who spotted it first. Suddenly she jumped up and cried out, "The table's on fire!" Jarvis grabbed the fire extinguisher and had the fire out in a matter of seconds, but an impressive hole had already burned through the table.
Here you can see the loose burner element that caused our little fire. Hey, can't beat the excitement of a fire in the booth to keep us all on our toes!
This is Russ, Tropic Hut's fry cook for three days. Russ is transferring wings from one of the stock pots, where they have been simmering for about twenty minutes, into a pan. He'll pat dry the wings with a paper towel, then into the deep fryer they go! Since the wings are already cooked through, the fryer is only needed to give them the desirable crispy skins. This technique means the wings require much less time in the fryer, which also means they are less greasy when served.
Here comes another delivery of wings! The event organizers made arrangements with a large meat distributor to park a tractor trailer freezer unit on Fourth Street. Folks from the meat company visited us Cookers several times a day to keep us stocked up on wings.
The entire Tropic Hut staff was made up of folks and relatives of folks who worked with Colleene at University Medical Billing.
That's Colleene on the left. Behind Colleene is Val, fellow medical biller with Colleene. Next to Val is her son, Kole, and next to Kole is Val's daughter, Kierra. Front center are Russ and Shannon. Shannon used to work medical billing with Colleene and Russ is Shannon's husband.
What a crew! We've never had so many people working the stand, and we definitely needed all seven people (including Jarvis, who is taking the picture) to handle this busy event.
We made the news! This nice photo of Val and Kierra was featured in the Reno Gazette-Journal on Sunday, July 7, the day after the Biggest Little City Wing Fest.