Tri-Cities Baconfest co-organizer Travis Woodall is pictured with the winners of last year’s Miss Tri-Cities Baconfest and Man vs. Bacon contest winners. Contributed photo.
Before the final piece of “meat candy” was gobbled up at last year’s inaugural Tri-Cities Baconfest at Bristol Motor Speedway, organizers Travis and Brandi Woodall already were discussing ways to make this year’s event an even more savory experience for festival goers.
“Of course your first year, and at every event, you’re always thinking, what can I do to make it better, what can I change, and last year, we immediately on site were going, what can we change, what can we add?” said Brandi Woodall, who co-owns and operates Positive Approach Group, an event planning and promotions company, with her husband.
Those changes included moving this year’s Baconfest, set for Sept. 7, from BMS to the more intimate Venue in downtown Johnson City, which the Woodalls also happen to own.
“We enjoyed hosting the event in Bristol, but logistically it was a little harder because it was an outdoor event, so you’re at the mercy of heat, rain, all the elements,” Woodall said. “The other downside to hosting something in such a large venue was even with 1,600 attendees, it felt very spacious, and I wanted it to have more of a home-grown kind of feel, so we started looking at different venues throughout the Tri-Cities, and we really want to make it a true Tri-Cities event so we may move every year. We don’t know how we want to structure it yet moving into the third year. We’re open to moving it to Kingsport and maybe even Greeneville and some of these outlying areas so that we can share the love of bacon with all of Northeast Tennessee.”
This year’s attendees will have the chance to sample a wide variety of bacon-inspired dishes created by the festival’s “pork partners.”
“We’ll have 12 to 13 different food vendors doling out different kinds of food,” Woodall said. “Earth Fare is going to be doing a maple bacon popcorn. We’ll have chocolate bacon cupcakes from Cakebuds. Hokie Smokie is doing bacon cowboy beans. We’ve got everything from grits with bacon, which seems a little more traditional, to the Blue Moon Dinner Theatre is going to do a peanut butter banana bacon burger, so it is a gamut of bacon dishes.
“By scaling [the festival] down a little bit, we were able to make everything more inclusive this year. With the ticket price and the way we’ve structured it, all of the general admission tickets actually get tastings included in their tickets.”
From noon to 3 p.m., attendees of all ages (two youngsters age 10 and under get in free with the purchase of each $18 adult ticket) will be able to sample bacon-infused dishes and enjoy children’s activities. The winner of the 2013 Little Miss Bacon Bit pageant will also be crowned.
Tickets to the event’s VIP time slot from 5 to 6 p.m. are $45 and include specialty foods from the festival’s pork partners, gourmet bacon from Benton’s and specialty craft beer and alcohol pairings. VIPs will also have full access to the General Admission time slot from 6:30-9:30 p.m. and will receive a commemorative Tri-Cities Baconfest cup along with a swag bag full of freebies.
Attendees must be 21 or older to attend the VIP event as well as purchase tickets ($27) for the General Admission time slot, which gives bacon lovers access to all of the festival’s pork partners, some of which will not be at the early event. They’ll also have the chance to compete in a “Man vs. Bacon” competition and vie for the title of Mr. or Miss Tri-Cities Baconfest, a light-hearted “pageant” that involves hog calling and bacon trivia. Live entertainment by the JV Squad beginning at 9:30 p.m. will round out the evening.
A portion of the proceeds from this year’s event will benefit Special Spaces Tri-Cities, a nonprofit organization that creates beautiful bedrooms for children facing life-threatening illnesses.
“I think there are a lot of layers for the reason we chose that charity, but basically what they do is they create dream bedrooms for children who are going through cancer treatments. As a mother, that speaks to me. I have a friend from high school who is going through leukemia with her 4-year-old son. For us, knowing that the money was staying local, it was going to benefit a local child, it just really resonated with us.
“We always say we want to make an honest living, we want to have fun doing it, and we always want to give back to our community. That’s kind of been how we judge our success as a company.”
For tickets or more information, visit the festival’s website at www.tricitiesbaconfest.com.