Keystone Blue Ribbon Bacon Tour celebrates all things bacon this weekend
IF YOU GO
What: Keystone Blue Ribbon Bacon Tour
When: Saturday, June 25 and Sunday, June 26; 1–6 p.m.
Where: Keystone Resort
Cost: Free to attend; free live music. Tasting: Advance tickets: $20 Piglet Package; $30 Samplin’ Swine; $50 Hungry Hog. (at the gate, tickets will be $22 / $35 / $55)
A-la-carte Tasting Tickets: $4 for one Tasting Ticket — each tasting ticket will be exchanged for one item at any of the participating food vendor tents. Purchase advance tickets at keystoneblueribbonbacontour2016.eventbrite.com
For more information, go to keystonefestivals.com
BY THE NUMBERS
3,000: pounds of bacon at the festival
25: gallons of bacon ice cream
50: pounds of chocolate for bacon s’mores
1: bacon mascot named “Blue”
Around 5,000 people are expected to turn out to eat more than 3,000 pounds of bacon over the course of two days at Keystone’s annual Blue Ribbon Bacon Tour. The festival, in its sixth year, will showcase the popular pork product in creative dishes, cocktails and with a bacon-eating contest. The Bacon Education Center will give guests and children an opportunity to learn more about the meat, and some guests are likely to get into the bacon spirit with costumes.
“This is just my favorite festival because I think the people coming to this event are out to have a good time, and they’re out to be fun and cheeky,” said Maja Russer, director of marketing and events for the Keystone Neighbourhood Company. “I think the weirdest thing I’ve seen was a gentleman who was walking around wearing a BabyBjorn carrier, and, instead of a baby … there was a giant stuffed bacon,” Russer said. “We have people in full on head-to-toe suits … with bacon printed on it. … People come out to have a good time; no one takes themselves very seriously.”
The Blue Ribbon Bacon Tour begins Saturday, June 25 at River Run in Keystone and will continue through Sunday, June 26, from 1–6 p.m. daily. Several bands will play on the main stage throughout the event, including the headliner for the last six years, the all-female AC/DC cover band Hell’s Belles. The rest of the lineup includes Banditos, Dirty Bourbon River Show, King Cardinal, Rhythmic Statues and The Ballroom Thieves.
Individual tasting tickets are available for $4 per taste, or advance festival packages range from $20 for the Piglet package for kids to $50 for the Hungry Hog. Prices will increase at the gate.
A portion of the proceeds from the Blue Ribbon Bacon Tour will benefit The Friends of the Dillon Ranger District (FDRD), a local nonprofit that protects national forest land. FDRD has partnered with the festival since its inception and provides the volunteers to help put on the event.
Chefs from area restaurants and Keystone Resort will be cooking up a variety of dishes with Farmland bacon as the featured ingredient. As a festival sponsor, Farmland donates all the bacon for the participating food vendors to use. Other bacon purveyors at the festival are Berkwood Farms, Des Moines Bacon Company and new this year, Syrup, a restaurant out of Denver. Each purveyor will bring 500 to 700 pounds of bacon to sample.
Some of the menu items include bacon jam pork belly sliders, Ahi tuna and bacon tacos as well as coconut chicken with a bacon pesto, Russer said. On the sweet side, Higgles will bring maple bacon with chocolate homemade ice cream or a Belgian waffle dipped in chocolate and garnished with a bacon crumble.
The Keystone Resort Colorado Mountain College culinary apprentices will be preparing elk and bison sliders with caramelized onions and hickory smoked bacon served on a sweet potato roll. Director of culinary education Kevin Clarke said they like to think of the dish as the classic mountain west.
“Many people think of game meats when they think of Colorado cuisine, so our slider patty is made of season elk and bison, and you cannot go wrong with a great pairing of bacon and onions. It allows people to enjoy their bacon fix without having to go ‘bacon overboard,’” he said.
Keystone executive chef OJ Moore will be preparing an applewood smoked bacon mac ’n’ cheese for the 9280’ Tap House booth, as well as a smoked bacon bratwurst with mashed potatoes, pickled cabbage and a whole grain mustard demi for Labonte’s Smokehouse BBQ tent. He said the bacon festival is an opportunity for the chefs to combine traditional dishes with an artistic flare.
“The house-made bacon mac ’n’ cheese is a great example of a traditional dish, while the bacon bratwurst will be a new dish for guests to try, served with my favorite accompaniments,” he said.
Moore recommends one of his favorite dishes at the event, Keystone chef Ned Archibald’s bacon s’mores with buttermilk ice cream.
For the Edgewater Café, executive chef Jason Boyle created the bacon-jam grilled cheese.
“I wanted the dish to represent what we do here at Edgewater Café,” he said. “We try to provide traditional dishes with just a bit of a twist. The point is for the food to be recognizable but still offer a bit of flair.”
Boyle said he appreciates the festival because it gives chefs the opportunity to shine but also said his favorite dish is just the bacon by itself.
“Maybe it sounds lame, but there is not a better tasting food in the world than bacon,” he said. “My favorite bacon dish is not a dish at all; it simply is bacon itself.”
MORE THAN JUST BACON (BUT STILL ABOUT THE BACON)
Two years ago, the festival introduced the Jim Beam Bourbon Tour, and Russer said that has continued to grow, with more companies participating this year, including Jim Beam, Basil Hayden’s, Knob Creek, Maker’s Mark, Bird Dog and Colorado Sunshine.
“There is going to be a lot of options in that area for people to try and really unique, small batch, high-end whiskeys, bourbons, scotches for people to taste if that’s what they’re into,” she said.
The Farmland Bacon Eating Contest will be held Saturday at 4:15 p.m. at the River Run Main Stage. Last year, a 14-year-old won the contest by eating more than 50 strips in one minute, Russer said.
The Blue Ribbon Bacon Tour originally started in Des Moines, Iowa, by a group of passionate bacon lovers. In 2001, the group started an annual retreat weekend in Spirit Lake, Iowa, where they celebrated (and ate) bacon. In 2008, officially organized under the Iowa Bacon Board and led by Brooks Reynolds, the group started the festival in Iowa, with a mission to improve the enjoyment of all things bacon. After putting on the festival in Iowa for years, Reynolds — who has owned a condo in Keystone and has been skiing at the resort since the early ’70s — pitched the idea of bringing the Bacon Tour to Colorado to the Keystone Neighbourhood Company.
“He had a vision — he thought Keystone would be a good place to replicate the Iowa event,” Russer said.
The Iowa Bacon Board and Keystone Neighbourhood Company planned the first event in three months. Now the festival has grown exponentially, and organizers work year-round to plan the event.
To help support its mission to improve the enjoyment of bacon, the Bacon Education Center will offer a variety of seminars. The Colorado Pork Council will hold a seminar both days to discuss cooking pork and bacon in general and how to appropriately prepare it.
A Bacon Camp for kids, led by chief bacon officer Marshall Porter, includes a bacon sing-along and a seminar on how to use bacon in ways other than eating it. Patrons can also earn a bacon diploma by attending a 30-minute crash course in all things bacon on Sunday.
“It’s really their first step in their bacon journey,” Porter said. “Once someone earns something like this, they feel like there is so much more out there hopefully that will spark their curiosity, and they will continue their pursuit of bacon knowledge.”
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