Published on January 28th, 2014 | by Joe Lawler
One super weekend: Bacon fest game plan
Last year 8,000 tickets to the Blue Ribbon Bacon Festival sold out in three minutes. For the 2014 event 12,000 tickets managed to last almost an hour.
So does that mean demand is down? Not really. It still sold out in less than an hour.
“Since we went online with sales in 2010, we’ve always sold out in under an hour,” said organizer Brooks Reynolds. “I don’t know of many festivals that sell out that quickly.”
The love of bacon has spilled out of the Blue Ribbon Bacon Festival to events around the city, country and even the world. Three Bacon Elegance dinners were held prior to this week at Trostel’s Dish, Splash and Big City Burgers and Greens. The Blue Ribbon Bacon Tour hits Keystone, Colo., June 21-22 and the Reykjavik Bacon Festival returns to Iceland in September. A bacon bike ride is planned for this summer, and the first ever Blue Ribbon Bacon University will be held April 25-27 at Honey Creek Resort State Park.
Tickets to that event are pricy ($350), but it does get you the right to buy two bacon fest tickets each year for eternity. You can even leave them to someone in your will.
“We’re juggling a lot of pieces of bacon,” Reynolds said.
Like every year, the organizers will have to go back to the bacon drawing board on Monday (they’ll be watching the Super Bowl on Sunday, of course) to figure out how to expand the event in 2015. Fans are always hungry for more bacon, but Reynolds and the Iowa Bacon Board don’t want to expand too quickly and have everything deflate around them.
“I think we would like to go to a two-day event, but then we’re doubling our efforts and it’s twice as much work for all our vendors,” Reynolds said. “We could do it outside, but we don’t want to move it to a warmer month. We love this time of year.”
RECIPE: Beer, bacon and chicken recipe
The pre-game: In the past die-hard bacon fans have lined up outside whatever building the Blue Ribbon Bacon Festival was being held in, waiting to get in and feast on all the pork belly goodness. This year things are working a bit different, but in this case different should be good.
The Elwell Family Food Center, which last year housed the Icelandic disco, will be the check-in building this year. Bacon Board president Brooks Reynolds described it as similar to an airport check in (with no full body screening). You’ll enter, go through one of 10 rows, get your goody bag and be released to eat bacon inside the Varied Industries and Jacobson buildings.
DDEP will be performing music for fans in line and there will be Irish coffee and hot chocolate to consume while you wait.
“In the past it’s been hard to bring folks in in a timely fashion,” Brooks said. “We’re hoping the registration building will alleviate that and provide for a smoother entry point.”
The first quarter: You’ll need something to drink to start fueling your day, so use one of the two beverage coupons that comes with admission to get a bacon bloody mary, tallboy or craft beer. Zombie Burger is making a chocolate-covered bacon kronut (donut/croissant hybrid) and cinnamon bacon sugar kronut holes for the event, which sounds like the perfect start to a bacony day.
Enjoy some music by Mr. Baber’s Neighbors at 10 a.m. and at 11 a.m. check out the Bacon Professor, Leo Landis, as he discusses “Pork from the Prairies: Bacons of Western Iowa.”
Eat: Bacon sushi from Sakari (don’t worry, the bacon is cooked). Fish is brain food right?
The second quarter: At noon the wedding chapel in the Jacobson Building will convert into an Elvis-only bar. Want to get in? Then dress like Elvis or a showgirl, because if you don’t TCB you are SOL.
If you’re not dressed like Elvis, you’re still allowed into Club Sizzle in the back of the Jacobson when it opens at 1 p.m. The Vegas-themed nightclub will have performances by Kees Camp dancers, little person Elvis impersonator Mighty Mike, DJ Brad Goldman and others.
“We want to show people something they’re not always going to get to see,” Reynolds said. “It will be some fun, whacky stuff.”
Lazer 103.3 will also be doing a group wedding at noon with rock jock Moose on hand to perform the ceremony for three couples.
Farmland Bacon will be sponsoring a casino (you can’t win money, sorry) and there will be a Chops Bar, where you can Elvis-ify yourself. Take advantage of that to get into the Elvis bar.
Eat: Hy-Vee’s PB&J bacon bombs. Elvis would be proud.
Halftime: Find a bathroom, especially for the gentlemen. Bacon Fest is one of the few events where you’ll find guys waiting for the bathroom while women have almost no line. To combat that, the event will have 50 extra port-o-potties outside.
The third quarter: Sigfus Olafsson, Iceland’s Bacon Ambassador, will talk about his home country in “Reykjavik Bacon Festival: Why you need to experience bacon in Iceland.” This is like when the NFL plays a game in Europe. It’s a good exchange program.
If you’re more in the mood for a laugh, comedian Willie Farrell will entertain the crowd starting at 2 p.m. He’s sure to have a good bacon joke or two — he is a Des Moines native.
Eat: Bacon meatloaf on bacon bread by Keller’s Deli. Pair it with a few strips of bacon and it’s perfection.
The fourth quarter: The big push comes at 3 p.m. with the bacon eating contest. Watch athletes in their prime devour huge plates of bacon after they’ve trained all day by eating bacon. The prize? Bacon. Worth it. After a winner is declared, cool down by eating some more bacon and enjoying music by DDEP and Faculty Lounge.
Overtime: The after party starts at 6 p.m. at Johnny’s Hall of Fame, 302 Court Ave. There will be $3 Coors/Coors Light and Pearl Vodka drinks. A copy of a festival ticket lets you buy one drink and get one free.
Blue Ribbon Bacon Festival
WHEN: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Iowa State Fairgrounds, East 30th Street and East University Avenue
COST: SOLD OUT