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Sunday, August 25, 2013

Bacon Fest Portage 2013: Bacon Bust?


I arrived at the first annual Bacon Fest Portage unsure of what was in store. It was free and in a park I'd never been to. I knew it would be a different take on a bacon fest, different from the elite Baconfest Chicago. There were no big names to sell this fest, other than bacon of course. The American obsession with bacon has had me scratching my head for years. Is it wonderfully delicious if done right? Certainly. Do many other cultures have bacon and cured pork? Of course. But why the need to push the limit? Why the bacon soap and bacon candies made with low-grade sweets and sodium-laden meat?

Would I find my answers at this hometown fest?


Well, not really. What I observed was long lines for deep-fried, bacon-wrapped hot dogs with cheese. Lines that went by the port-a-potties. How could you have a taste for food standing by the johns? Was it the bacon they were after, the deep-fried-ness of it, processed meat, or the cheese? Maybe it was the picture on the sign of a well-endowed woman enjoying that big sausage. It also could have been that it was one of two booths that still had bacon at this mid-point of the festival.

With five hours left, most of the bacon menu items were sold out. It was their first year and with few vendors and an unknown number of visitors (no tickets means no clear idea), it was understandable. They were also competing with the nearby 37th Pork Fest (for vendors and fest-goers).

What I did see was booths with classic fair food (fried snacks, pretzels, and donuts). I saw one booth with bacon-flavored popcorn. Some had ice cream, sandwiches, and burgers. Some had sausages and pork chops straight from the grill. I got a pulled pork sandwich from Hungry, Inc that made the trip worth it. It was so juicy and tender. It had seasoned and crisp bits. The bread was soft but toasted.


The park was a nice large setting with plenty of shade under the old trees. There were some benches, but the ground was clean enough to sit on if you wanted to stop and watch the festivities. I would have liked to see some shade in the area with the band. The band seemed good and the songs were ones with wide appeal. But they had the worst spotlight. The sun in all of it's summer intensity was beating on them and the brave crowd watching them the whole time we were there. 

Free admission at a park in the summer was inviting for the whole family. They had some inflatables to keep the children entertained.

It seemed that the (non-bacon-related) local business booths out-numbered the food 2:1. Vendors displayed jewelry, purses, Tupperware, and scented wax. Civic associations, scholarship sweepstakes, and K-9 officer shirts. A dunking booth. I guess with anticipated crowds, they wanted to get their messages out and sell some of their homemade goods.

And the crowds appeared to be large. According to the official Bacon Fest Portage Facebook page, "Hungry inc. has sold 360lbs of bacon and 180lbs of pulled pork today!" And remember, their bacon was out by the time I got there five hours after the start with 5 hours to go. (Yes...10 hours, which is incredibly long for any small fest.)

Bacon Fest Portage 2013 was interesting to experience. I walked out without having any bacon. But it was free and a good excuse to get out of the house on that beautiful and warm day. The shade made me stay longer than I would have otherwise.

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