Last year’s inaugural Arizona Bacon Fest was a bit of a delicious disaster.
Organizers planned for 400 people to show up to Reid Park to sample bacon creations from eight local restaurants and beer from four breweries.
“It was supposed to feel like a bunch of friends, casually getting together for some good food and drink,” said Rob Betancourt, one of the organizers and founders.
What they ended up with was more than 1,000 people clamoring for tasty bacon treats. The food ran out quickly. People were turned away.
“It was really bad for us,” Betancourt said. “We were overrun. We had to close the gates. At that point, you are selling something you can’t deliver.”
It was a hard lesson learned and something that Betancourt and his associates carried with them as they planned for the second annual Bacon Fest, being held this Saturday.
This year’s festivities will take place at Kino Veterans Memorial Stadium. More than 30 local restaurants and 10 breweries are participating.
For $45-$50 in advance and $55 at the door, bacon buffs can sample creations from all 30 restaurants and will receive tickets for beer.
Participating eateries include Lindy’s on Fourth, Prep & Pastry, Mama’s Hawaiian BBQ, The Parish, BrushFire BBQ Co. and On a Roll Sushi.
Each restaurant’s dish will be entered into a competition to decide which has the most pleasing piece of pork.
The winner will by chosen by Matt Russell, host of the KNST radio show, “On the Menu Live,” anchor Allison Alexander from KVOA, Sherm from KLPX’s “The Frank Show” and Fook, the morning show host on KFMA.
Natasha Kalina, owner of the Russian-themed eastside restaurant Kalina, has plans to whip up an apple bake with infused bacon, brown sugar and maple sauce.
“It is something different,” Kalina said. “I am pretty sure most people will try to do something savory. This will be unusual, but also very American.”
“It is a good chance for these chefs to shine,” Betancourt said. “They are putting their best foot forward amongst their peers. They take it pretty serious.”
Betancourt said a key factor of their success this time around is that they have received help from organizers of other large-scale events in Tucson. Coordinators affiliated with the Great Tucson Beer Fest, KLPX and KFMA and La Frontera, have lent a hand.
Tickets for this year’s Bacon extravaganza will cap out at 2,500 to guarantee everyone gets fed.
“We are going to try to over-deliver this year,” Betancourt said.