BLOOMINGTON — Apple & pork, move over: Here come suds & sizzle.
The culinary collusion will take place for the first time hereabouts Friday night undercover at the Grossinger Motors Arena.
The 21-and-older event's official title is the Bloomington Bacon & Beer Festival, open for mouth-watering business from 7 to 10 p.m. (or 6 to 10 p.m. for those with VIP passes, more about that shortly).
Though Clinton's Apple & Pork Festival has long been a popular fall staple with its mating of juicy fruit and succulent meat, the Bloomington Bacon & Beer Festival is the first locally to match brew to one specific aspect of pork.
It's the brainchild of a Fargo, N.D.-based promoter, Jade Presents, which divides its time between concerts (Dwight Yoakum, Foreigner, Brian Regan, etc.) and festival-style events.
The Bacon & Beer Festival concept was born several years ago and has become a hit in such Midwestern communities as Fargo, N.D.; Wichita, Kan.; and Davenport, Iowa.
"The Bloomington festival is the fifth one ... and it's been two years in the making," says Shelby Sachs, event marketing and partnerships coordinator for Jade Presents.
The company prefers to focus on what Sachs calls "not really big markets, like Chicago or Minneapolis-St. Paul, but cities in the 70,000-200,000 population range."
Jade is partnered with Grossinger Motors Arena for the event, which is designed to attract local eateries and breweries to participate (a complete list of participating restaurants and breweries, as well as other details, can be found at the official festival website, baconandbeerfestivals.com/bloomington-il/.
The Bacon & Beer Festival concept was forged as an exclusively indoor event for winter and early spring, "usually between January and April, because that's when people have gotten cabin fever and need something to get them out of the house," says Sachs.
The success of the first event in Fargo, N.D., convinced the Jade crew that craft beer scene is alive and kicking in the heartland, "but we wanted to make it different that the average beer festival, of which there are at least five or six each summer." (B-N has a few of its own, of course, including the annual Jaycees bash, now staged at the Corn Crib in Normal.)
By matching bacon to the brew, a perfect balance between food and drink was reached, Sachs said.
As for the food, it's bacon, and bacon alone, with no other pork products allowed.
"We travel to each market and meet with restaurants so we can explain the event to them and answering questions like, 'As a restaurant, what is this going to give me to be here?'"
One of the Jade group's stock answers per the latter is that the festival will allow their food to be seen and sampled by around 2,000 (or more) people."
That's the average number of food samples that Jade tells restaurants they will need to provide for the event.
"We kind of let them run with it," she says of the bacon-based food samples that will be on tap, along with the craft beers.
"The focus of the event is to be a culinary experience for each patron and we encourage the chefs and brewers to get as creative as possible with their samplings," adds Courtney Ficek, director of national events for Jade.
General admission tickets are $30 advance via the Grossinger box office or $35 the day of the event.
That ticket gets you: bacon food samples (while they last), beer samples (while they last), a commemorative pint and and live entertainment by local rockers the Joe Zaklan Band.
Limited VIP tickets (still available at press-time) are $65 advance and $70 the day of.
That pass gets you: an hour's earlier access at 6 p.m., all of the general admission ticket perks mentioned above, commemorative VIP gift (a bottle opener) and access to special BLT and Bloody Mary bars.
In addition to the live music, there will be the evening's piece de resistance, says Sachs: a bacon-eating contest involving four contestants.
She describes it as simultaneously "gross ... and amazing!"
All told, "We just like to call it all a match made in hog heaven."