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First War of Wings veterans benefit in Eastaboga draws good reviews (with photos)

EASTABOGA -- The first War of Wings in Eastaboga is now in the books, and although the total amount raised for the Wounded Warriors of Alabama will not be known until later this week, the event seemed on its way to success. 

The weather was perfect, the music was good, the beer was cold and the unmistakable scent of every sort of barbecue wings imaginable hung over Combat Park and Veterans Trade Day like a savory blanket.

It took a lot of work to get there, though, and event organizer Brandy Musick was able to keep several balls in the air as the event went on. It was event an close to her heart, and it showed.

Musick said she first became involved with the Wounded Warriors of Alabama when she was developing television and digital campaigns for the organization on behalf of SpectrumReach. 

“They started out as clients, but they have become some of my best friends,” she said. “And the idea for a cookoff was always there.”

Musick is a competitive barbecuer, and she and her husband have participated in the Big Kahuna Cookoff in Knoxville, Tennessee, twice.

“That event is about 10 times what we have here in terms of participation and crowd size, but they are able to raise extraordinary amounts of money for the organizations they help,” she said. “So when Wounded Warrior of Alabama asked about doing a fundraiser to help veterans in the area, I wanted to try and do something big that could help a lot. 

“Now that we have Veterans Trade Day, we have a lot of space available, so we started with that. And I know the people in competitive cooking are generally some of the most giving, loving people anywhere, and a lot of them are willing to step up and help out veterans who may live right next door to them, in their own neighborhoods. 

“I’m excited about all the people who were willing to get behind this.”

Altogether, there were 11 teams, all from Alabama, competing for the victory in Eastaboga’s first-ever War of Wings. Numerous coordinators, for volunteers, bands, social media, judges and teams, all got behind the effort as well, and Daybreak Media waived its fee to handle all sorts of marketing for the event.

Sponsors included Mr. Dan’s Plumbing, Sunny King Auto Group, Cooper Chevrolet, Wise Environmental, ERA King Real Estate, Reddy Ice, Webb Concrete and Building Supplies, Cheaha Animal Hospital, Cheaha Bank, Bama Budweiser, Monster Energy Drink, Geico, Struts Hot Wings, Love Stuff, Amstar, CW21, WABM 68, ABC 33/40, AOD Credit Union, Elysian Brewing, Cahaba Brewing, Crest Point Entertainment Group, Michelob Ultra and Daybreak.

The participants were all there both to support the cause and for the competition. 

Local Jimmy McAvoy of Double Trouble Grilling said he was “glad to be doing something good for our veterans, and I’ve been wanting to get into competition for some time now.”

Kyle Williams of the Anniston Fire Department, which fielded a team, said he was “really enjoying it, having fun and supporting a good cause. It’s a good time for everyone.”

A couple of booths down, Chris Duggan of the Anniston Police Department agreed. 

“It means a lot to us,” he explained. “The Public Safety Partnership and the Community Relations Unit got a half-million dollar grant, and this is one of the ways we’re trying to reach and give back to the surrounding community.”

A little further still, at the tent for Chief Grilldaddy and the Old Guys, A.J. Stronz said the cause is particularly close to his heart because he is on active duty with the Army and came from Fort Benning, Georgia, to be a part of the event. 

“It’s going great, I didn’t expect this many people,” he said. “It’s great to have a chance to give something back and have some really good food, too.”