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Buffalo Nite on Capitol Hill puts wings and weck in bipartisan focus

WASHINGTON – This city of bad pizza, big mouths and no wings got a real treat Wednesday, for the 34th time in 35 years.

Once again, Buffalo Nite in Washington filled a Capitol Hill hearing room with hundreds of people who left their hometown to make it big, or just make it, in the nation’s capital.

Gone were all the lawmakers with comb-overs and all the talk of CRs and sequesters and other things that are not appreciated beyond the Beltway. In their place there were tables lined with wings and weck and Genny Cream, and more interesting people than had occupied the room since the last Buffalo Nite.

“This is the highlight of my return to Washington,” said Rep. Chris Collins, R-Clarence, who was attending the event for the first time. “This is way better than the CR and the debt ceiling.”

That’s for sure.

The 35th annual Buffalo Nite – the 2001 event got canceled because of the Sept. 11 attacks – was just like all the previous versions.

Once again, hundreds of people noshed on food from back home and got caught up on the Bills that matter most, rather than the bills that go nowhere in Congress.

And once again, the New York State Society, which sponsors the event, honored someone with the Charging Buffalo award, which goes annually to a Buffalonian who makes a name for himself or herself in D.C.

This year’s recipient was former Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds, R-Clarence, who comes as close to representing a Buffalo-Washington mind meld as anyone either city has ever seen.

“It’s always an honor to represent Buffalo, and it’s always great to be at Buffalo Nite,” Reynolds said.

Reynolds received his award from Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., in a show of bipartisanship that is exceedingly rare in these parts.

But that’s nothing unusual for Buffalo Nite. Once again, Democratic congressional aides chatted with Republicans. Bureaucrats talked about Buffalo rather than their bureaus. And alcohol was involved.

“It’s wonderful,” said Susan Unger, the co-chairwoman of the annual event. “It just shows how many Buffalonians there are in the area and how they want to get involved.”

They wanted to get involved mostly, it seemed, in the wings, which came courtesy of Will Poultry and tasted quite unlike the ketchup-covered, chain-produced cylinders of fowl flesh that pass for wings south of the Pennsylvania line.

But of course, the wings weren’t the only highlight.

“It’s not the food or the drink” that keeps bringing people back to Buffalo Nite, said Patrick Curley, a longtime attendee. ‘It’s the camaraderie.”