Iowa bacon festival draws thousands; governor pardons pig

Everything on the menu at Iowa's Blue Ribbon Bacon Festival was made with bacon, including chocolate-dipped bacon, bacon-flavored cupcakes, bacon gelato, bacon gumbo and chocolate bacon bourbon tarts.

DES MOINES, Iowa — Thousands converged Saturday on the world's largest bacon showcase, a festival celebrating all things connected with the meat.

Some people wore Viking hats while others walked around with makeshift pig snouts for the Blue Ribbon Bacon Festival. The U.S. event featured more than 10,000 pounds of bacon served in unusual ways, including chocolate-dipped bacon and bacon-flavored cupcakes and gelato.

"I love bacon more than I love my job," said Katie Nordquist, who was dressed in a tuxedo T-shirt that looked like bacon.

The smell of concoctions like bacon gumbo and chocolate bacon bourbon tarts wafted through the Iowa State Fairgrounds. Another building offered an Iceland theme with a Viking boat and Icelandic dishes with bacon to honor a group of delegates visiting from Iceland.

Blue Ribbon Bacon Festival: Bonnie waits for Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad to pardon her outside the governor's mansion Friday in Des Moines, Iowa. IMAGEAP Photo: Barbara Rodriguez

Mike Vogel, wearing a head-to-toe bacon costume, said a widespread love for bacon is why the 8,000-ticket event sold out in just over three minutes.

"I think it's the right time of year when everybody's been cooped up," said the 39-year-old videographer. "It's a good time to get out, have some fun, try some new stuff, have a few beers and enjoy yourselves with everybody else."

Other events included lectures about bacon and an eating competition. The festival was preceded with a bacon queen pageant and a pig pardon by Gov. Terry Branstad.

Jessica Dunker, president and CEO of the Iowa Restaurant Association, said bacon used to be just a breakfast food. Now, chefs across the country use it in everything from vegetable dishes to desserts.

Festival co-founder Brooks Reynolds, who officially started the event a few years ago, called the event a "bacon fellowship."

"They can just bond with their fellow man and just celebrate the meat that everybody enjoys," he said.

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