I arrived at this year’s Deltona Bacon & Brew Fest parched and hungry — in perfect condition to partake.
Oct. 12 marked the festival’s first time at Dewey O. Boster Sports Complex in Deltona, a larger venue than the previous location in DeLand’s Earl Brown Park.
The event has grown popular over its first four years. Promoter Kelli Marks estimated there were nearly 10,000 people in attendance this year.
Admission to the festival was free, but, like the three winners of The Beacon’s Bacon & Brew giveaway, I had a $65 VIP pass and sample-size beer mug in hand. I was ready to see what was in store.
Proceeds from the event went to the West Volusia Regional Chamber of Commerce’s Community Charity Inc., which supports business development in Deltona and in West Volusia.
There were plenty of tents set up in the park, with vendors offering food, pet supplies and other merchandise, and information from local businesses. Of course, there was plenty of bacon, along with beer samples from breweries all over the state.
With my VIP pass, I was able to access a separate fenced area where more food and drinks were offered. There was also an area with outdoor misting fans, where VIPs could sit and cool off.
The Bacon & Brew Fest is a daytime event, and I was happy to escape the heat and sunshine in the VIP area. In Earl Brown Park, the Bacon & Brew Fest offered some shade, but shade is in short supply at Dewey O. Boster.
The food in the VIP tent, provided by Serve All Catering of Sanford, included bacon mac and cheese, pulled pork with pieces of bacon, bread rolls, baked beans (also with bacon) and a cake-style bread dessert with pineapple.
I tried everything except the bread rolls, and I was most impressed with the beans. The pulled pork had a sweetness to it that I didn’t mind, and the bacon mac and cheese was good, but maybe not something I’d eat a second time.
There was also an open bar in the VIP area, serving up soft drinks, beer and wine, and liquor.
Half of the draw of the Deltona Bacon & Brew Fest was its “Brewery Lane,” offering free beer samples.
The vendors there were all friendly and knowledgeable, and were willing to offer their recommendations.
I wasn’t familiar with many of the beers, so it was good that there were people to give in-depth information.
Fortunately, the area wasn’t too crowded when I partook of the samples, which made for a pleasant experience.
My favorite brewery was Cigar City Brewing Co., based in Tampa. They offered me some delicious brews that I thought had the best flavor.
My favorite was their Jai Alai IPA, or India pale ale.
If you stopped at each of the breweries present and sampled each of their beers, you’d most likely end up feeling a little tipsy after a bit.
Jake's 29° Sports Bar and Grill of Orange City was there, serving Jake’s Signature Mason Jar Bacon.
The thick-cut, cherry-wood smoked bacon coated with “sweet-heat candy” is made with Jake’s signature “OC” spice, brown sugar and black pepper.
There was a good-sized line at their tent. A slice of the special bacon, served on a stick, cost $1, and I thoroughly enjoyed its spicy yet sweet taste.
But what’s a bacon festival without some good, regular ol’ bacon?
That’s a joke I made to Georgia Turner, the executive director of the West Volusia Tourism Advertising Authority, who was volunteering at one of the bacon tents.
For $1 at her tent, you could get a nice little clump of bacon: maple-flavored, chocolate-dipped or plain bacon. I asked Georgia very nicely for a mix of the maple and plain. Both were cooked to perfection.
The festival also featured a bacon-eating contest, hosted by the team at radio station 104.7 WROD-FM.
Five contestants took the stage, each facing 2 pounds of bacon. The winning prize included $100 cash, a surfboard from Kona Brewing Co., and a cute little Bacon-&-Brew-themed trophy. All the participants said they entered due to their love of bacon, except one who admitted she “didn’t even like bacon.”
While 2 pounds might not sound like a lot of bacon, the contestants all soon found out that it was.
It was nearly neck and neck during the competition between Christine Neville and J.T. Posada. The platter of pork proved too daunting for Christine, however, clearing the way for J.T. to clean his plate and win the grand prize.
No one wanted to waste any bacon, so the leftovers from the competition were handed out to some people in the crowd.
“I won’t be eating bacon for a long time now,” Christine said later.
My only real complaint about the festival was the lack of shade and seating outside of the VIP area. Even then, people had been encouraged to bring seats of their own, to enjoy the three musical acts that were performing on stage.
If you plan to attend next year, the VIP pass is worth every penny.
For $65, I had guaranteed seating and shade, free food, and access to plenty of beer. It’s the way the festival was intended to be experienced.
I personally will be attending again — VIP-style!