Its time again for that two-day festival that celebrates all things bacon like only River Falls can, with pig-themed activities for the entire family, live music, merchandise from local artists, vendors that find all kinds of ways to use this favorite meat, micro-brews that wash down that meat, and more to put you in hog heaven. (For more on the Bacon Bash festival’s music, see the Notes From the Beat department of this web site).
Come to this year’s Bash and sample bacon-inspired dishes that are dished out by local restaurants and food vendors. Then cast your vote for the People’s Choice Winner, and possibly help send a local entry to a world bacon-inspired food championship.
The third annual Bacon Bash was held last year in September and was called a “porktacular” success with more than 16,000 attendees, much bigger than the entire town. The sponsors invite you to join them again this weekend, Sept. 17-18, 2016, for the fourth year, as they continue to celebrate America’s fried meat of choice.
A new highlight is courtesy of the Belle Vinez Winery, called Comedy & Corks, with music by the Chris Silver Band and comedy by Todd Andrews. Advance tickets for $25 are available at Belle Vinez Winery, Riverwalk Square and the Chamber of Commerce office. The fee includes wine and entertainment, and a complimentary wine glass, too. The event is held at 5 p.m. Friday.
Andrews began his comedy career by establishing roots in the Boston comedy arena. Eventually moving to his wife’s hometown in Wisconsin, Todd took the Midwest comedy scene by storm. With his East Coast attitude and sharp wit, he says, the crowds are overwhelmed.
Come see Todd’s observations of a “Boston Boy Lost in Wisconsin.” The stories focus on his “fish out of water” experiences, his married life, and his odd life experiences. “Let Todd’s witty charm and likeable personality wrap you into his funny adventures of living in the Midwest,” says his online bio.
Todd holds an MBA from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, and a Bachelor of Science Degree in Plastics Engineering from the University of Massachusetts-Lowell. Todd’s education and professional career experiences is coupled with his high energy and solid, clean material, giving him plenty of fodder for his act.
As far as the music to accompany the comedy, after delving into various styles of music and types of lineups over the years, which were strong on things such as Americana and its percussion, Silver says he now prizes going back to the traditional roots of musical forms such as the bluegrass of the late ’70s and early ’80s, which strive to be polished and true to the craft, rather than just long jams. Like many artists playing events such as this one, he plans to tone down the volume so people can converse as they partake in the many food and drink samples provided.
OTHER PIG “STUFF”
This year the Bacon Bash will get a kick-off by conducting a drop off rooftops — dubbed “When Pigs Fly” and featuring stuffed plush pigs flung from a couple of stories up to the street below. That activity will reoccur throughout the weekend, but has its first episode at 10 a.m. Saturday.
Ongoing throughout the event can be found local craft beer and wine offerings and a Kids Activity Area. For all of the weekend activities at Bacon Bash, there is free admission to the public.
Also, young and old are invited to partake in pig-themed activities — many of them new this year — such as pig races, pig wing eating contests, pig pardoning, pig calling and impersonations, Gimme Some Bacon Dance-off, Hot Squeals Veggie Racing, Bacon Bod Aerobics, and bacon trivia and Haiku, not to mention going hog wild (but in moderation) over local micro-brewed beer. On Sunday only there is a fest-related Car and “Hog” Cruze-In.
The festival, with activities held in most cases near City Hall, is back by popular demand and is billed as the biggest free bacon fest in the country. There are numerous new vendors, events and food options, according to Judy Berg, the head director of Bacon Bash from the River Falls Chamber of Commerce.
This year’s Bacon Bash will again feature eats that include many bacon-wrapped delights. Some 40 merchandise vendors will be showcasing their products including specialty sauces, arts, crafts and novelty items that put a “twist” on marketplace shopping, Berg said.
Lots of new food items will be featured this year, an important part of Bacon Bash, since the aformentioned bacon is an ingredient in each. The array of options smacks of another Minnesota State Fair, Berg said, and includes cheese curds, brownies, feta cheese french fries, mini donuts, funnel cake, cheesecake, apple pie, pork chop on a stick and even ice cream. There are also more standard usages of bacon in recipes for the less adventuresome. Plenty of vendors are on a backup list, as the current slate is full.
“This year we will be giving away free bacon samples,” Berg said, “and we also will have the Great American Cookout here.”
The 2016 version of the Bacon Bash also will offer more activities for children, such as educational exhibits, prize giveaways and competitions, and a vegetable racing event where kids make veggies into cars. (See, the appeal of the eats at this extravaganza doesn’t end with simply bacon). The latter event is held three times early Saturday afternoon.
The Bacon Bash has gotten bigger in scale since the concept to start the festival was first hatched in a whirlwind of activity, between a group of friends. Their mission: An affordable “foodie” event centered around bacon that lets people pig-out on a Wisconsin experience and invites visitors to come here, time and again, Berg said.
Mission accomplished. The event since has been featured on places such as Twin Cities Live, and even the London BBC. And the culinary competitions can indeed go worldwide.
GOING FOR THE GLOBE
Bacon Bash very notably serves as an initial step in getting recipe-makers recognized around the world for their creations. The World Food Championship first reached out to Bacon Bash to host a trial contest in 2013, and since then its status has been elevated to super qualifier elite competition, making Bacon Bash an automatic competition place. That local-and-becoming-worldwide contest is another big bonus of Bacon Bash, taking place on Saturday evening.
Twelve Winners of the four cooking categories, steak, sandwich, chili and dessert, will head to Orange Beach, Ala., for the final competition, and fight for a $100,000 prize. And again, it all could start in River Falls.
The cook-off will pit culinary enthusiasts against each other in a unique format that could send them to the world’s largest food stage, as they will gather in front of thousands of fans to face off in a nine-category showdown to find the best. Contestants will be forced to compete against nature, a clock and a field of talented cooks from all walks of life. Do you have the chops to bring home the bacon?
These are the times of selected Bacon Bash activities: Saturday at 11 a.m., pig pardon, at 2 p.m., pig calling and impersonation contest, at 3 p.m., bacon trivia and Haiku contest, at 4 p.m., bacon bod aerobics, at 5 p.m., bacon and pig themed costume contest, and at 6 p.m., when pigs float activity; Sunday, at noon, pig wing eating contest, at 1 p.m., pet costume contest and Great American Cookoff demonstration, at 2 p.m., pig calling and impersonation contest, and at 3 p.m., gimme some bacon dance-off. There also are several cooking contests throughout the weekend. Main sponsors, in the first two tiers, include Security Finance Bank, Belle Vinez Winery, Twin Cities Pioneer Press, Thunder Country 95.7, River Falls Journal, Patrick Cudahy, and Dick’s Fresh Market.
Details for all these activities can be found at www.riverfallsbaconbash.com.