The Festival of Bacon took place in my hometown of Orlando on October 5, 2013. I have been waiting for a bacon festival to happen near me for a very long time. I started my bacon blog in April of 2011 and have been posting about many bacon-related topics, including bacon events in other states. So, when the Festival of Bacon was announced I began counting down the days. I did what I could to spread the word to others in the area and supported the festival on my blog. I’m hoping my review of the festival is an interesting read to everyone.
PROS OF THE FESTIVAL:
* Located in Orlando. My hometown. I am actually able to say I attended a bacon festival!
* Future 6 Helping Hands had a booth set up selling shirts and other merchandise to raise more money. And they had a cool pig to pose with for pictures.
* The booths of free bacon provided by the festival were great! The choice in bacon and how it was cooked was just right!
* There was a booth where you could buy all the familiar bacon-related products, such as Bacon Ornaments, Bacon Gumballs, ect. A must for a bacon festival.
* Orlando Chili Cook-Off had a great set up! I received a paper bacon ‘stash on a stick! They were incredibly nice and offered awesome chili with bacon! It had no beans, was flavorful with a hint of spiciness that kicked in at the end, and lots of bacon. I look forward to the Chili Cook-Off in February. I can’t wait to go and maybe find some bacon chili to write about. It’s always a great time at the Orlando Chili Cook-Off!
And got some other Bacon ‘Stashes, too!
* The “Bootleggers Row”. It consisted of Jagermeister, Jim Beam, and Old Forester. Both offered some awesome bacon cocktails. Jim Beam and Old Forester definitely had the best drinks to offer. I’m hoping they send me their recipes so I can share them with everyone.
**(On, October 12th, I posted a separate review on Old Forester’s “Breakfast in a Cup” drink from the festival. It was definitely my favorite drink and the creator of the recipe was very nice a sent me the recipe to share!)**
* The Pug Rescue of Florida was there. They had two pugs there at a kissing booth. $1 donation to their rescue and you got a kiss! Free petting. 🙂
CONS OF THE FESTIVAL:
* We arrived 45 minutes early, thinking we would be standing in line. There was no actual entrance and no indication where parking was. The address listed said “Robinson St” but we found out entry to parking was actually off “Livingston”. And like I said, there was no sign and no one at the opened gate directing anyone in and showing us where or how to park. I was amazed those who showed up early with us were able to figure out the correct way to line up cars in the field on our own. So high five to us!! But getting out was a pain in the ass.
* As we walked around the entire perimeter of the festival, trying to find out where the actual entry was we discovered there was about 50 ways to get in for free. The place wasn’t even secure. Gates were wide open, no one questioned random people that were walking in and out with their dogs (obviously not volunteers – we even talked to some of these people, they weren’t). After talking to a couple people and finally directed to the location of the entry area, we discovered a huge opening where once again many were just walking all about – with their dogs. We were not the only ones in this situation. We gathered with others and stood there waiting for anyone that could answer our questions. We are now 30 minutes before opening time. Finally, it was established we were in the correct place, but they had not yet set up the ticket lines or put up any gates to the front. We were asked to continue waiting. Given we were now a whole 20 minutes early before opening time. We stood there, formed our own line, and about a hundred people or so showed up to stand in our line, as they quickly tried to put their ticket lines together. When they were ready, they announced for everyone to pile in, which pissed me off because me and about 10 other people had been there for quite some time and been through enough at this point and now almost had a hundred people cut in front of us.
* As we were in line, one of the volunteers seemed to know what was up. He tried to make chit-chat with us because they were still not ready to let us in. Then, there was the woman volunteer in the “will call” line that was next to us. She stated more than once she didn’t even know what she was doing because she “just showed up.” When another yelled down to her to ask what line she was, she yelled back “the cool line” and then said directly to the people around her she didn’t even know what line she was in. My husband reached over and pointed to the sign right next to her that read it aloud “Will Call”. They made several announcements while we were there about volunteers not being paid to be there and they worked on tips. I’m glad they weren’t paid. I could not find a single person that would help me anytime I had a question. And I will tell you right now, I only tipped a couple vendors that I actually enjoyed.
* Half the vendors had nothing to do with bacon.
* No air circulating under the tents set up at the bars. We tried going to the tents to escape the heat but others doing the same were packed in. It was heat exhaustion or suffocation. We spent most of our bacon bucks on water.
* At 12:40, we actually could not find COLD water. We had to leave by 1 PM because we were starting to feel ill from the heat and were hungry.
* The bacon chocolate offered by SGT Bacon was badly dispensed. The 2 for $1 meant you got half a bacon slice broken in half. That makes two.
* Hardly any vendors offered free samples. It was advertised 30,000 free samples. I assumed this meant the three booths the festival themselves offered where straight bacon slices were dished out. The lines for the free bacon were extremely long compared to any other. Tickets were $27 at pre-sale and $35 after that… what did people pay for? To pay more?
* Bacon games and activities? Please someone tell me where they were because I couldn’t find them.
* Your change was given to you only in bacon bucks. Even if you paid in real cash. I didn’t appreciate the gimmick.
WHAT I WOULD CHANGE:
* Be more selective of the volunteers you choose.
* If having an event that lasts more than 4-5 hours, make sure to have separate entertainment to offer and divide it up through the event. This will keep people entertained and want to stay longer.
* Be sure to have plenty of places to keep out of the heat if choosing a hot day. Make sure air can circulate in areas where people are to gather.
* Be more selective of the vendors setting up with your festival. See what it is that they are offering to your guests. Will it actually improved their visit or is it even relatable to your strict theme?
MY SUMMARY REVIEW:
I feel as though my expectations were set too high for a festival I have waited years to arrive in my area. I must remember this is the first year. There will be things to learn from. I also feel as though the vendors and volunteers did not have the same dream as the guys who put this festival together.
When I first heard of the Festival of Bacon, I began following them on Twitter, Facebook and even Instagram. I wanted every detail as it was being released to the public. I was overwhelmed with excitement. The buildup was amazing. The advertisement, involvement with bloggers and local news was perfectly done.
But as my husband Ric, our friend Jon and I arrived to the actual event, my heart began to sink. The lack of organization. The lack of pride from vendors. The lazy volunteers. It all just got to me.
Maybe I don’t get the Epcot Food & Wine/Food Truck-ish theme. You know what I mean, “Pay to get in and then pay to try anything – and only very small over-priced portions.” I know many people enjoyed themselves. I know it was a success overall. But for this bacon-fiend that blogs solely about bacon, I felt let down. I may have done it to myself. I may have just dreamt up this perfect festival in my head..
I really do hope there is another Festival of Bacon next year. I really do. I want to give it another try. I want to see it succeed. I believe in the guys that organized it, I just think they need the right people by their side to help it thrive.
The Smiling Bison is located on Bennett Road in Orlando Florida. They recently opened their doors for business and definitely spread the word by setting up a booth at The Festival of Bacon on October 5th.
My husband Ric, friend Jon, and I were skeptical about stopping by the booth at first. The line wasn’t long and they seemed to be tucked away from the main traffic flow. But, none the less, they had a great deal on a Bacon Fat Chocolate Chip Cookie. $1? Short line? Sure!
The cookie was flat. But you could see the golden color and chucks of chocolate screaming at you. As I bit into the cookie, my mouth just started to water. It was moist, gooey, sweet, and just melted in your mouth. I didn’t actually get any bacon taste, but did find very small pieces. Though, the cookie itself was delicious! But to be frank, the name of the cookie states “bacon fat” not “chunks of bacon”. You could tell bacon fat was used though. Bacon fat has a distinct way of working perfectly in baked goods and many other types of recipes, making ingredients blend together well. I do believe they found a great combination to a different type of “bacon cookie”.
About an hour of walking around looking for more delights, we still craved something with a new twist. Ric and I have tried all the same ol’ bacon recipes. And everyone seemed to be doing those same ones. We were burnt out, but then we came back around to The Smiling Bison’s booth. And then we remembered – They had a sandwich to offer! And I think they knew what they were doing and that they were doing it right.
The cookie (which was now sold out for delicious reasons) was described simply by it’s name on their sign. But with this sandwich, they made sure to list the art put behind it. “The BLT Biscuit: Fried pork belly, bacon fat biscuit, tomato jam, tomato jam, frisee, bacon vinaigrette, bacon mayo. Made using house cured and smoked kurobata pork.” Just reading it made my cholesterol-induced heart skip a beat. But I had to tell myself to calm down. I needed to try it first.
To begin, It was a nice presentation. It was slapped together quickly but neatly. As I took a bite, you could feel the the slight crunch of the outer layer of the pork belly and then feel it just melt, as it combined with all the other ingredients. You could actually taste every single ingredient included on the biscuit in just one bite. The pork belly was perfectly cooked. The tomato jam, bacon vinaigrette, and bacon mayo were not overwhelming. This was amazing since most people get carried away with the condiments. And the frisee to be honest was just there. It was there to complete the ‘B.L.T.” but what bacon-fiend is going to notice it anyway? And the biscuit itself was so moist and perfectly warmed. It just barely crumbled in your mouth as a biscuit should. Overall it was perfectly made, with a kiss of sweetness on your lips and a blanket of love on your tongue. You could once again tell these guys know how to use bacon fat.
I have not had the pleasure of visiting their restaurant yet, but I do plan on making it there soon. Their menu seems to consist of creations for individuals looking for something different. Something that will wake up your taste buds once again. Remind you of taste again. Even their drink menu is something to look forward to.
I applaud owners Joshua Oakley (Chef) and Ron Thomas Jr. (General Manager). They have my attention and I wish them the best of luck in their business and future creations.