Celebrating bacon and community

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GUILFORD — Kids frolicked around the Guilford fairgrounds with outrageous balloon hats, adults sipped on bacon beer and nodded their heads to local music, and families perused a variety of vendors while chewing on bacon sticks at Brattleboro's fourth annual Baconfest on Saturday.

Peter Case, "Fish," the operations manager at local radio station WKVT, came up with the idea for Baconfest four years ago.

"Bacon is always a hot trending thing," he said. The first festival was put together in only six weeks, but it also rained Case said, about 1,200 people still attended.

"We would have been happy if half that amount of people came through," he said. "So, when it was double our expectations, we said we really have something."

Every year the festival tries to add something new. The radio station starts preparing for Baconfest about six to eight months in advance.

They send letters to vendors on Jan. 1. "People set their calendars while there's snow on the ground," Case said.

While Case said he couldn't pinpoint just one bacon item he loved the most, he said all the vendors had cool and exciting things to sell, from bacon cookies to bacon burritos.

"It's all outstanding," he said, adding that the event is good for the community because it draws attention to the vendors and gives people something to do.

"Who doesn't love something that's free and fun?" he said.

The festival is co-hosted by WKVT Radio and the Brattleboro Area Chamber of Commerce, which sponsors a Hog Jog Run every year before the festival.

Kate O'Connor, the Chamber's executive director, said this year they had about 80 to 85 runners.

"It was young and old, fast and slow," she said. "People really like it because it's an event everyone can run in."

The Chamber of Commerce also sells Baconfest merchandise at the festival. O'Connor said she's never seen anything dedicated to bacon before in this area.

She said that when Case presented the idea, Chamber members thought he was a little crazy at first.

"But he's not crazy," she said. The event draws locals and tourists, she said.

"It gets our area, our name out," she said. "I think they just wanted to do something that's fun, and it really is fun."

The Whetstone Station Restaurant and Brewery serves the alcohol every year at Baconfest. Owner and manager David Hiler said his favorite part of Baconfest is the Bloody Mary with bacon that Whetstone serves.

"The bands are awesome," he added. He enjoys the proximity of his tent to the main performers. "It's great to be right here and listen to the bands," he said.

One of the most popular beverages is the Bacon Beer.

James Branagan, the brewer at Whetstone, said the company wanted to come up with a bacon flavored beer for the festival.

"It's a little impractical to put bacon in the fermenter," he said. Instead he went about pairing flavors. The bacon beer has a malt flavor with maple syrup blended in. It's half and half smoked malt and regular malt.

"So we get that very lovely smokiness," he said. "It's actually apple smoked malt." A slice of bacon is added for good measure.

Beer wasn't the only alcoholic beverage featured.

Tony Cole from Delicato Family Vineyards was serving wine at the Wine and Swine portion of the festival. This was the first time wine has been served at Baconfest. Cole partnered with Whetstone and Farrell Distributing to make the Wine and Swine tent. He was excited to be at the festival and thought the different food sold would pair nicely with the red wine he was serving.

"People can go out, grab a slice of pizza bacon, come down to our tent and pair it up with wine," he said. He's personally a huge fan of bacon, and he looked forward to tasting food from the other vendors.

Among the many vendors was Kate Theriault from The Marina restaurant. She was serving up food with a crew of family members. She said Baconfest is a great way to get involved with the community. She thought it was particularly exciting for event goers because vendors were offering free samples.

"It's really worth it," she said. "It's a great family event. There's things for the kids to do, there's things for the adults to do, there's beer and wine, there's fresh squeezed lemonade, we have bacon mac n' cheese, so it's well worth it."

Harmony Birch can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext.153. Or you can follow her @birchharmony.

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