Blue Ribbon Bacon Festival goes whole hog in Des Moines
The ninth annual Blue Ribbon Bacon Festival took over the Iowa Events Center on Saturday.
This year's theme was "Body by Bacon — Sweatin' to the Sizzle." The health theme incorporated workouts scattered throughout the day, including yoga and Zumba workshops.
Brooks Reynolds, founder of the festival, said the theme came as a response to health organizations stating bacon is bad for consumers. He added the activities were a way to burn off the bacon consumed at the festival.
"We try to basically say that bacon is good for you, and that's what 'Body by Bacon' is," Reynolds said.
"Anything bacon. Anything alcohol."
He added more than 50 food vendors were creating more than 80 different bacon menu items at the festival to top off the theme bars, lectures and music lineups.
"We try to make it unique and different," Reynolds said about the theme each year. "It's going to be a fun day full of all things bacon."
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"It's about the environment that you build there," said Christa Beeler, a yoga instructor from West Des Moines who taught fitness classes at Bacon Fest, about the atmosphere created by yoga. "Bacon's the same way."
The workouts were fun, simple ones because sometimes people take their workouts too seriously, Beeler said. In some of her classes, participants would line up their drinks at the top of their mats and drink throughout the workout.
Many of the yogis were clad in bright spandex costumes to fit into the festival's theme. Even Captain Morgan attended a yoga class as a crowd gathered to watch.
Local celebrity Chris Soules, a former participant in "The Bachelor," made an appearance to present this year's Bacon Festival queen with a rose made of bacon.
Allison Schafer, who hails from Iowa City, earned her title as this year's queen for her "deadly" accuracy with a bow and arrow, said Susan DiMezza, a public relations representative for the event.
Soules was assisted by last year's bacon queen in presenting Schafer with her sash.
Organizers expected a turnout of more than 12,000 people, some returning and others that were new to the event.
Renee Reece of Norwalk said this was her second year attending.
"I didn't expect there to be so many fun things," Reece said about her experience the previous year, adding that she had expected to eat bacon and leave.
Others agreed they attended more for the spectacle than anything else, like Derek Rodgers, an Iowa City man on his fourth year of participating in Bacon Fest.
"It's just kind of an interesting environment," Rodgers said.
"It's Iowa as much as you can get Iowa."
Rodgers said he likes seeing how creative people can get with the theme.
For some returning participants, this year's festival was an opportunity to introduce newcomers to the event.
Take for example Mike Hein and Libby Lewis, a Des Moines couple who attended the festival for their fourth and first times, respectively.
"I've always been curious about it," Lewis said, but she had previously hesitated because of the cost of the ticket, she said. General admission tickets went for $45, according to the event website, and Lewis pointed out that other events that feature Des Moines cuisine are free.
But the pair prefer to give each other tickets to events to experience things for Christmas, so Hein gave Lewis tickets for this year's festival.
"I think it's a great event to feature Iowa," Hein said.
She's been coming to Bacon Fest for three years now.