A Festival of Bacon
The following is a guest post by Ellie Burhans
I could wax poetically on the virtues of bacon â€“ the smoky smell, the crisp way it crunches, the taste, how it complements nearly every other sort of food and makes it all just so much better â€“ so when I saw adverts for an event called BaconFest in Hudson, NY, I knew I had to be there. What started as a word of mouth event got big publicity in the New York Post, causing literal trainfuls of people from NYC and Long Island to venture upstate to see just what the fuss was about. Even planners did not expect this first time out to be nearly as crowded or successful, and many of few vendors ran out of bacon by 1pm. Still, with a dollar of the $10 admission fee going to local food banks, it was hard to feel upset if you arrived early. Which thankfully my group did.
The smell of pork and smoke and BBQ goodness wafted through the air when we parked at 10am. As we walked through the small tent, we were pleased that each vendor was different from the next, though slightly bummed out that there were so few booths. A day of eating requires more than nine food vendors! I was slightly dismayed that there was only one booth selling bacon to take home. And yet, each vendor provided bacon goodness and early in the day, lines were short. Later, I found out that a space in the tent required a $200 fee, so itâ€™s understandable that so few restaurants took a gamble on the first year of an event.
I started the day out with a BLT enchilada, which was exactly what it sounds like, from Block Factory Tamales. Despite being simple and easy to replicate at home, it was a strong way to start the day. The homemade tortilla, the sweet smoky bacon, and the spicy enchilada sauce left what can only be described as a happy taste in the mouth. The best part was that it came with a cucumber salad in case you felt badly about eating a bacon enchilada for breakfast. They also made a bacon milkshake, which had gotten some negative reviews based on the texture, but I enjoyed greatly. The texture was no different than a cookie crumble frappacino and this tasted like bacon with wonderful undertones of vanilla and rich cream. We also all agreed that the bacon whoopee pie was a phenomenal treat â€“ more savory than sweet, more graham cracker than pie. The sad lowlights were the bacon rice krispy treat (too sweet) and the pulled pork sandwich from Arkansas Tomâ€™s Razorback BQQ (despite him having the most interesting dish called the rollup which consisted of bacon, cream cheese and sausage).
There were rumors of a booze cruise, and we quickly ventured onto the Spirit of the Hudson as soon as New York State liquor laws allowed. The event staff was not prepared for the rush and in the same line were people awaiting bacon vodka bloody marys, the local beer on tap, and to purchase tickets for a cruise later in the day. It was confusing for people and no one seemed to know what was going on. Event staff finally explained that from noon to one, the boat was open for people to drink, and then after there would be a sightseeing tour for an additional fee. The drinks were quite good, despite the vodka running out in thirty minutes and the keg arriving with only twenty minutes left before the boat departed.
When we rejoined the land-lovers at one, the small group of passionate bacon-aficionados had morphed into one massive line for any vendor that still had bacon. After a quick walkthough we determined there was no bacon to be had, unless you were a judge in the 3pm Bacon Cook-off. We left the festival as Sgt Dunbar and the Hobo Banned began to play their set, disappointed that we could not feast on more bacon and a little overwhelmed by the crowd. While we set for a calmer setting with the promise of gin cocktails, we saw many people venture towards the bacon-less festival. The event planners had reduced the price of admission to half off, which is a decent price to see Sgt Dunbar as well as Eastbound Jesus. Still, we left wondering how much better this will be next year. While disappointed in the lack of bacon in the afternoon, I am glad that people were surprised at the success of the event. BaconFest 2013 can only be better now that the kinks have been worked out.
Photo: Vanessa Pike-Russell