This past weekend was the first Bacon Fest in Portage and I decided to take the kids down to check it out. Having lived in Portage for most of my life, I wanted to support what I thought was a good idea for a new local festival. Also, considering the size of Portage, I thought the city really needed a festival on par with Valparaiso and Chesterton. So as soon as Lorelei woke up from her nap, I packed the kids up and headed down to Founders Square Park.
The festival took place from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m. and we got there at about 2:45, so we were pretty much right in the middle of it. There was a good crowd, which I thought was a great sign, but it certainly didn’t feel too crowded. The park is pretty well set up for a festival, with plenty of room for vendors and lots of parking available either in the grass where a makeshift lot was set up or nearby. We made a lap around the whole park when we first got there just to see what was going on. A live band was playing, there were food vendors in the main part of the park, craft and business vendors further back, and inflatables (bounce houses and such) in the middle of the park. Landon was initially interested in the inflatables, but when we got to them he decided he didn’t want to go in. There were kids playing on them, but he certainly wouldn’t have had to wait to play. He tends to get nervous in crowds, though. A paramedic was also helping kids aim a fire hose, with those who were waiting for their turn running through the water. Again, Landon didn’t want to participate, but it looked like fun.
Once we made it back around to where we had started, it was time to pick a food vendor for a late lunch. Since I was alone with both kids, I went with the vendor that had the shortest line and that had both hot dogs and hamburgers since I figured Landon would be OK with at least one of those options. The bacon cheeseburgers we got were good, and we got them fast, but they could have had more bacon considering it was a bacon festival. I did notice that the food vendors that offered the most bacon items were the busiest, with the vendor that featured deep fried bacon-wrapped hot dogs and several desserts with bacon having a huge line the entire time we were there. We picked a spot in the shade on the ground to eat our burgers (for some reason I ALWAYS forget to bring a blanket to these things, so we had to sit directly on the grass) and then walked around looking for dessert options. There was a gelato stand that looked good, but then Landon saw the doughnut stand that also had deep fried Oreos and he immediately picked that over ice cream.
Our quest for deep fried Oreos is where the biggest downfall of the festival became apparent. The vendor had lost power to most of her booth when we got there, including her fryers. We waited for awhile, but all the food vendors were in direct sunlight and it was getting hot, so I told Landon we would check back again before we left and we headed to the gelato stand (which had excellent gelato, by the way). After talking to the doughnut vendor and hearing other people talk as we ate, it was clear there was a power problem for many of the vendors. Several couldn’t have all of their equipment running, which made food preparation take longer and led to longer lines the longer we were at the festival. The woman at the doughnut stand couldn’t have been nicer to us, giving Landon a non-deep fried Oreo when I told her we would come back and then making sure he got an order of Oreos when we came back even though she had started to lose power to her booth again.
Despite the Oreo fiasco, we had fun and Landon didn’t want to leave when I told him it was time to head back to the car. Obviously there were some problems, but it was also the first year for this festival. It appeared that the biggest problem was that they had more people than they expected, which I hope gives the organizers the confidence to continue with Bacon Fest next year. In addition to the electricity issues, several of the food vendors had run out of certain items by 3 p.m. with another five hours of the festival left to go. Hopefully next year, in addition to a solution that allows the food vendors to power all of their equipment, vendors will have a better sense of how many people to expect and plan accordingly.
I’ll definitely take the kids again next year if there is a second annual Bacon Fest, although I certainly wouldn’t be disappointed if they changed the date. I realize I might be totally alone in this opinion, but I prefer festivals to be in the fall instead of during summer. I just don’t have much of an appetite when I’m outside in hot weather, and when going to a festival that celebrates bacon, I obviously want to be able to try as much food as possible. The summer heat has never stopped me from going to the Porter County Fair, though, and it won’t stop me from going to Bacon Fest next year if the organizers keep it in August.
South Shore Parent