Adrian Conner is a vegetarian — most of the time.
Conner replicates the music and antics of Angus Young in the all-female AC/DC tribute band Hell’s Belles, and the Austin, Texas, resident will be traveling with the band to headline Keystone’s Blue Ribbon Bacon Tour on Saturday.
“I’m into food, and I’m into experiencing, so I will try bacon stuff,” Conner said. “I want to know what things taste like. It might give me a stomachache because it’s very rich. Last year, I had peanut butter and bacon pizza. It was kind of like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with cheese.”
This is Hell’s Belles second appearance at the hog-centric festival, which takes over River Run Village for two days, Saturday and Sunday.
Bacon for your brain
This is the third year that Keystone has hosted the bacon tour, wafting skyward the heavenly, smoky scents of bacon samples, bacon-inspired dishes and even Beggin’ Strips snacks for four-legged bacon lovers. The event brings in more than a ton of the good stuff from Colorado and Iowa and offers it up for Summit County connoisseurs from more than a dozen food vendors.
If you get tired of crunching it in strips, you can also get your pork-back fix by visiting the festival’s Biggest Bacon Bloody Mary Bar, sponsored by Hair of the Dawg Bloody Mary Mix. There’s even food for your brain, with a bacon education series that includes a seminar on how to launch your own bacon empire.
“The Blue Ribbon Bacon Tour believes bacon education is at the core of a healthy bacon economy,” said event co-founder Brooks Reynolds in a news release. “So, we’ve introduced a lecture series hosted by certified bacon instructors including the likes of Eden Farms’ Nick Jones and Denver Bacon Co.’s Justin Brunson. With famous bacon purveyors at the head of the class, participants are sure to receive a first-class bacon education.”
Eric Clayman and Brunson, of the Denver Bacon Co., will take attendees through the steps required to get a bacon enterprise off the ground and running toward the next Blue Ribbon Bacon Tour. Tips include how to create a bacon recipe, finding a USDA processing plant, creating packaging, setting up distribution and lighting up social media channels with buzz about your tasty offering.
“There’s all this interest in bacon right now, and there’s probably a lot of people who have experimented with making bacon at home and thought, ‘I should sell my bacon,’” Clayman said. “So we thought we would take people through the realities of that. It’s not a simple process at all because it involves meat; it starts with USDA inspection. We are very similar to that person who is sitting in our lectures and thinking about making bacon at home, because that’s where the idea came from.”
Denver Bacon Co. has grown from processing one pork belly at a time, which equates to about 10 pounds of bacon, to cranking out 1,000 pounds in a batch. Clayman said the seminar will take people through his company’s story of bringing a home recipe to a restaurant recipe and building it into a product that’s now available for sale in stores and restaurants. He said he’s also excited to experience the camaraderie of people who are bacon enthusiasts.
“We were part of the Blue Ribbon Bacon Festival in Des Moines, (Iowa) and just the people, the T-shirts that people are wearing, the enthusiasm, the mania around bacon,” he said. “So I’m looking forward to being immersed in that again. I’m looking forward to seeing what sort of T-shirts show up; there was some hilarious stuff.”
Fighting the food coma
Be sure to wash down your piggy provisions and newfound knowledge with a healthy dose of AC/DC rock. Aside from the altitude, which makes it hard for Hell’s Belles to breathe and even harder for them to sing, Conner said the band also has to combat the lethargy that comes from full bellies and the fact that their set is earlier in the day when people aren’t quite ready for an explosion of ’80s rock.
“It’s early in the day; people aren’t drunk yet,” she said with a laugh. “They are thinking, ‘Are people watching me? What’s going on? Do I like this music?’ We’ve got to work them into it. If people aren’t freaking out to ‘You Shook Me’ and getting more involved, there’s something wrong with them.”
But, ultimately, it’s all worth it for the bacon.
“We love bacon, and we love the festival,” Conner said. “The girls in the band all love meat, and they love bacon. They are looking forward to bacon, so bring on the bacon.”