'Manly men' turn out for Chattanooga's first-ever Man Xpo

'Manly men' turn out for Chattanooga's first-ever Man Xpo

June 29th, 2014 by Alex Harris in Local Regional News

Shane Wright pulls a hook from the mouth of a fish that he and his 3-year-old son caught in the fishing pond at the Man Xpo.

Photo by Erin O. Smith/Times Free Press.

Cooper, 3, and Clint Childs ride a lawnmower through an obstacle course set up by Southern Turf Products at the Man Xpo.

Photo by Erin O. Smith/Times Free Press.

Kirk Herbstreit, the lead analyst for ESPN's College GameDay, speaks to the crowd at the Man Xpo.

Photo by Erin O. Smith/Times Free Press.

Justin Miller and his 6-month-old son, Silas, sit in a drag racing car at the Man Xpo on Saturday at the First Tennessee Pavilion in Chattanooga.

Photo by Erin O. Smith/Times Free Press.

Faces smeared with hot sauce, tossing stripped bones aside, competing teams of Chattanooga police, firefighters, deputies and EMS workers faced off Saturday over heaping plates of sizzling hot wings.

They had 11 minutes to see which team of four could scarf the greatest weight of wings in a competition to raise money for the Forgotten Child Fund.

In the end, Hamilton County EMS won by a shred, downing 17 pounds, 6 ounces of hot wings. That was just two ounces more than the Chattanooga Fire Department. The Hamilton County Sheriff's Office came in third, and the Chattanooga Police Department rounded out the pack.

Hot wings, NASCAR, fishing, lawnmowers, boats, video games, golf, an eating contest, chain-saw wood carving -- the Man Xpo, Chattanooga's first "manly man's event" -- attracted thousands of men of all ages and backgrounds, along with their families, to the First Tennessee Pavilion and Finley Stadium.

"I think it's good for the men and their kids to come, and the wives, I think there's stuff for them to do here as well, so I enjoyed it," said Pam McAllister-Garrett, who's married to a member of the police department's wing-eating team. "And of course, watching them participate in the wing-eating contest was a lot of fun."

Kirk Herbstreit, the lead analyst for ESPN's "College GameDay," was the star attraction, holding a Q&A session with sports fans.

"I've never heard of anything like this. I love it. I wish I was just here attending," said Herbstreit, who's from Nashville and brought his four sons.

Herbstreit told attendees that Southern college football fans are some of the most passionate in the game, something he witnessed in his first year with ESPN.

"This is my 19th year on GameDay and I can remember in 1996 going to Neyland Stadium and I had never seen an atmosphere like that before," Herbstreit said.

The Xpo was sponsored by the Chattanooga Times Free Press and Dr Pepper.

Jason Taylor, president and publisher of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, said that for an event in only its first year, sponsors were blown away by the attendance numbers.

"For years, everyone kept asking us, when are you going to do a men's event? You're doing a seniors', kids', women's, all these other events, but we've never done a men's event," Taylor said. "So we finally thought, if we're going to do it, we don't want to do it like the rest of them. We want it to be different."

And men from the Scenic City were happy to finally have an event for them.

"It's great because you can smoke cigars just about everywhere, and nobody cares," said Nick Schwartz, a 33-year-old information technology professional. Schwartz added that it was nice to finally have a community event geared toward men.

But some had suggestions -- such as more hands-on activities and competitions, more live music and more local alcohol -- to make next year's event even better.

"I'd like to see more of the local beers that we have in town," said Danny Cotellese, 30, who works in the purchasing department at CarMax. "Especially since Chattanooga is starting to get well-known for that."

Staff writer Jay Greeson contributed to this report.

Contact staff writer Alex Harris at aharris@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6592.