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Jerry Davich: Will Bacon Fest sizzle or fizzle in Portage?

Mike Signorelli Valparaiso surveys Founders Square Park Portage locatiBacFest Aug. 24. | Post-Tribune photo

Mike Signorelli of Valparaiso surveys Founders Square Park in Portage, location of the Bacon Fest on Aug. 24. | Post-Tribune photo

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Updated: September 11, 2013 6:06AM



A Bacon Fest, huh?

Yes, a Bacon Fest, replied Mike Signorelli Jr., the 30-year-old bacon-lover from Valparaiso who came up with the idea in a dream. Yes, a dream.

Signorelli, who has created other successful outdoor festivals in Porter County, woke up one day earlier this year and thought, “This idea is actually weird enough to work.”

He pitched it to Portage Mayor James Snyder, who once casually suggested to Signorelli to tell him if he has any ideas for a festival in his city. But even Snyder, who gave his blessing for the event, had to first ask Signorelli for clarification: “Do you mean bacon? B-A-C-O-N?”

Yes, bacon, B-A-C-O-N, Signorelli replied.

“Who doesn’t love bacon?” he told me earlier this week when I met him at Founders Square Park in downtown Portage, location of the city’s inaugural Bacon Fest on Saturday, Aug. 24.

The free 10-hour event will feature live music from local and national acts, attractions for kids, vendor booths and, of course, “special bacon-themed menus from the best of Northwest Indiana’s restaurants.”

“Who doesn’t have fond memories around bacon?” asked Pastor Mike Hendon of Victory Christian Church in Portage. “There will be fun, music and bacon. How can it miss? I don’t have one bad memory around bacon. Do you?”

His church is actively and aggressively supporting the event by creating signage, fliers and a social media presence.

“We are here to bring value to the city of Portage, not be a burden. It’s a fun way to celebrate our city,” Hendon said.

Signorelli, whose band Fathom Blue will be performing, said there is enough room in the city’s spacious downtown park for 130 vendor booths for the event. More than half of them have been filled and he is still accepting new vendors, restaurants and crafters if anyone is interested.

“Even if you are not a bacon lover, we will have other things to offer,” said Hendon, noting that it’s all about promoting his community. “Coming together from all kinds of different backgrounds, faiths, belief systems and ideologies is really what this is about.”

Hendon’s church is filled with young, creative and innovative members, such as Signorelli, so he challenged them to think of something outside of the typical church-sponsored event. They ran with it, he said.

“The fest will be fun for the entire family,” added Signorelli, an eternal optimist who sees every glass — or in this case, every plate — half full of hope, promise and potential.

The event, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. will also feature the “Pig Skin Classic” flag football tournament, sponsored by Buffalo Wild Wings in Portage. It will be a five-on-five tourney with a $60 buy-in, and teams are encouraged to contact the restaurant to enter.

The only wrinkle in planning for the event has been a subtle backlash from supporters of the city’s annual Perch Fest, which lost city sponsorship last year and was cancelled.

That fest, which ran for three years each summer, was launched by former mayor Olga Velazquez who hoped it would become the city’s signature festival, such as the Popcorn Fest in Valparaiso or Oz Fest in Chesterton.

Snyder said last year that any future fests in the city should be sponsored by volunteer or nonprofit groups, similar to those other popular festivals.

Hendon told me, “This isn’t costing the city any money, and it is not a drain on our resources. Mayor Snyder and the City Council have been great in helping us pull this off.”

As a 33-year resident of the city, I can attest that Portage needs more outdoor fests, popular programs and destination attractions, similar to Valparaiso, especially considering it’s the third largest city in the region. If it takes bacon to do it, I’m all for it. Whatever makes the city, well, sizzle, in the summertime.

Northwest Indiana native Jim Gaffigan has practically built his comedic career around the universal joys of bacon. Cooking it. Eating it. Worshiping it.

“You wanna know how good bacon is?” he asked during one of his standup routines. “To improve other food, they wrap it in bacon. If it weren’t for bacon, we wouldn’t even know what a water chestnut is.”

“I bet if you put bits of bacon on a strip of bacon, you could travel back in time. It’s like a tasty vortex,” he joked. “I never feel like I get enough bacon. At breakfast it’s like they’re rationing it. Two strips of bacon? I want more!”

He even likes the name “Bacon.”

“You can’t tell me the success of Kevin Bacon isn’t somehow tied to his name,” he jokes on stage. “You’re not going out to see a Kevin Hot Dog movie. Who’s in this movie? Kevin Bacon. Sounds good.”

And one more: “Bits of bacon are like the fairy dust of the food community. Once you put bacon in a salad, it’s no longer a salad. It just becomes a game of ‘find the bacon in the lettuce.’ It’s like you’re panning for gold. Eureka!”

Will the fest-starved city of Portage find gold in the upcoming Bacon Fest later this month? We’ll see. I’ll definitely pop in for a visit and I hope you do, too. If anything, to try a sample of a food item wrapped in bacon that I usually never eat (water chestnuts?).

For more info on the fest, visit www.facebook.com/baconfestportage or www.baconfestportage.com, or call Signorelli at 477-9391.

For more on this issue, listen to Jerry’s Casual Fridays radio show today at noon on WLPR, 89.1-FM, streaming online at www.lakeshorepublicmedia.org.



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