This weekend, the festivities at Keystone Resort all revolve around one thing and one thing only — bacon. According to event organizers, the Blue Ribbon Bacon Tour will feature about 3,000 pounds of the delicious meat prepared in a variety of ways from traditional strips to bacon ice cream and s’mores. Taking over the River Run Village on Saturday and Sunday, the event features local vendors, bacon companies from all over the country, whiskey tastings, seminars on bacon, live music and more.
Bringing bacon to the mountains
In 2008, Brooks Reynolds and his colleagues on the Iowa Bacon Board hosted the inaugural Blue Ribbon Bacon Festival in Des Moines, Iowa. The idea for the event came about from a weekend retreat between Reynolds and his friends, at which they consumed large amounts of bacon. Since then, it has grown into one of the largest festivals of its kind, drawing participants and bacon lovers from all over the world.
Three years ago, Reynolds went skiing at Keystone Resort, where his family has vacationed since 1979.
“I normally wear something that’s bacon-related, whether it’s a t-shirt or a hat or a belt buckle,” he said. In talking with other people and handing out his business card, he connected with Maja Russer of the Keystone Neighbourhood Company, and began collaborating on the possibility of holding a similar bacon event in Keystone.
“We put our heads together and made it work,” Reynolds said. “Now we’re on year four and it’s just been a great partnership.”
Bacon in all its forms
While there will be plenty of traditional bacon strips available for tasting, vendors will also offer a number of non-traditional options, pairing bacon with foods both sweet and savory.
“For me, it’s a perfect food. It’s so versatile; you can do so much with bacon,” said Reynolds. “Yes, you can have it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. You can make it a sweet or a savory dish. It’s so — you can incorporate it into anything and just enhance that dish, whether it’s chocolate-covered bacon, bacon gelato, (or) a bacon quesadilla.”
For the intellectual bacon lover, the Blue Ribbon Bacon University live seminars feature speakers with experience in the bacon business, such as Doug England from Berkwood Farms, a coalition of independent family farmers from the Midwest.
New this year is the addition of whiskey tastings to the bacon festival. Samples of all types of whiskey will join other alcoholic offerings such as beer and the bacon Bloody Mary bar. Festival participants can participate in a bacon eating contest, or savor their samples throughout the day.
As for himself, Reynolds is going to stick with bacon in its most traditional form.
“I’m kind of old-fashioned,” he said. “I like a basic BLT with a nice chocolate malt.”
No food festival would be complete without live music to go along with it. Hell’s Belles is an all-female AC/DC cover band and has performed at the festival every year since its inception.
“We love Colorado and we love coming up there and playing bacon fest,” said lead guitarist Adrian Conner.
On stage, every member of the Seattle-based band takes on the persona of each of the original AC/DC performers. Conner personifies the electric Angus Young.
“When I step on the stage I’m a different person, and in Hell’s Belles I’m this crazy — it’s almost like I’m a rock-and-roll cheerleader,” Conner said, “because I’m showing people how to get into music and this is how you rock out to this music and have a good time and freak out, so I’m pretty much like a crazy person on stage.”
Off stage she’s a bit quieter, she said, but her outward appearance isn’t the only thing that changes at the bacon festival; her eating habits shift as well.
“I’m supposed to be a vegetarian but sometimes I eat bacon,” she said with a laugh. It seems she just can’t help herself when surrounded by so much temptation.
“I want to live. I want to try things, I’ve got to try stuff,” she said.
Those in the audience can expect high energy, faithful versions of AC/DC songs and “lots of head banging,” said Conner. “Even if they’re not AC/DC fans, they’re probably going to become AC/DC fans, or realize, ‘Oh my god, I know this song!’”
The best part of a live performance, she added, is when the audience starts responding to the music.
“My favorite part is when we can help break down people’s inhibitions and they start letting loose,” Conner said. “Usually after a few songs people relax and they realize it’s just fun and we’re just having a good time, and they start to dance and move around and it’s really fun.”