Bacon festival lands at Keystone this weekend
June 23, 2011
KEYSTONE – Brookes Reynolds loves bacon. He really loves bacon, unapologetically so. In fact, sitting at the bar at Luigi’s at Keystone last week, he fondly recalled how he made some bacon s’mores recently by blending up some cooked bacon, mixing it in melted chocolate and spreading it out on a cooking sheet to harden into bacon-flavored chocolate bars.
Yes, the self-proclaimed “pork dork” from Des Moines loves to expound on the virtues of bacon vodka, bacon cheesecake, bacon ice cream, bacon pizza and bacon-wrapped whatever. Evangelical about the charms of cured pork bellies, Reynolds is in town to kick off Keystone’s first-ever hosting of the Blue Ribbon Bacon Tour this weekend, an event Reynolds and his buddies brought into being several years ago as a result of their ongoing fondness for bacon.
“When I was a little kid, mom would be frying up bacon and that smell would just waft up through the house,” Reynolds said, waxing nostalgic while enjoying a beer at the bar – his favorite bacon accompaniment. “So for me, bacon really takes me back to childhood.”
In Des Moines, the Blue Ribbon Bacon Tour has grown every year in its short history. This past February, Reynolds said, tickets sold out online in just four minutes, and 1,900 festival-goers mowed through 3,000 pounds of bacon.
“It’s a fun thing for Iowa,” he said.
In Keystone this Saturday and Sunday, the bacon tour will feature numerous vendors offering many things bacon. And not just any old package of Oscar Meyer from the store will do: The Blue Ribbon Bacon Tour features artisinal bacon from smaller farms, most of which are in Iowa.
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A $30 ticket for the day gets you a hat, a drink koozie and one beer – plus all the bacon samples you can eat. That also includes some lectures from Leo Landis, “professor of baconology,” who will hold forth on the history of bacon and just about anything else you’d care to know.
What are the good professor’s credentials?
“He just loves bacon,” Reynolds said.
There’s a theme here: Keystone spokesman Ryan Whaley, when asked how the bacon fest came to be at the resort this year, pointed at the mountain’s VP and general manager John Buhler.
“He’s addicted to bacon,” Whaley said with a laugh. “So it was easy to sell him on bacon. He was like, ‘really, we can do that?'”
A little history
The Blue Ribbon Bacon Tour has pretty humble beginnings. As Reynolds explains it, he and some buddies started doing bacon-themed guy-getaways about a decade ago. Back then, it just meant showing up at a cabin on Iowa’s Spirit Lake with a bunch of beers and a commensurate amount of bacon. As the guys started marrying and raising families, they started to fade out of the scene, and the last guys’ bacon weekend was in 2006, Reynolds recalled. Then he heard a lecture by Leo Landis, the aforementioned bacon prof, and it took off from there. Asked in a bar by a newspaper what he thought Des Moines really needed, Reynolds said without hesitation, “a festival dedicated to bacon.” The idea was floated to a local bar owner, who also thought it was a great idea, and the bacon tour was on its way.
As the event grew in Des Moines, branching out seemed the next logical step. Since Reynolds’ family has owned a condo in Keystone for decades and he knew the area, he presented the idea to some folks at the resort, the restaurants and the Keystone Neighbourhood Company, and the rest will soon be history. A number of the restaurants in the River Run Village will offer bacon-themed items at booths at this weekend’s festival, and some of the vendors from the Iowa fest – including the bacon pizza guys and the bacon cheesecake folks – will be on hand. Several live bands will play throughout the weekend, and there will, of course, be beer to help wash down all that bacon.
“Bacon is the gateway meat,” Reynolds said. “A lot of vegetarians come back to bacon – they can’t stay away. For bacon, they’ll make even that one-day exception.”
At Keystone this weekend, they’ll have plenty of opportunity to fall off the wagon.