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Got bacon? River Falls sure will on Sunday

River Falls Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau, Tourism Sales Marketing Manager, Judy Berg, attended the Aug. 29 Twins game carrying a multitude of pig paraphernalia. 1 / 3
To advertise the Sept. 8, River Falls Bacon Bash, 63, men, women and children went to the Twins game, dressed in pink. The "grassroots" marketing campaign garnered a lot of curious looks and questions from fellow game attendees.2 / 3
River Falls FFA Alumni members, from left, Michelle Peterson and Amanda Sazama stand with Bethany O'Leary, River Falls FFA Chapter member, and her market pigs. O'Leary 's red ribbon winning, market pig, weighing in at 239 pounds, was purchased by the alumni for a price of $2.65 per pound. Half of the pig has been donated to the River Falls Bacon Bash for a meat giveaway, which will be held during the one festival in downtown River Falls on Sept. 8. (Submitted photos)3 / 3

As Homer Simpson says, “Mmm … bacon,” and that’s exactly what River Falls Bacon Bash festival goers will be saying this Sunday, Sept. 8.

The event that is sure to get the taste buds going will be held in conjunction with the last Car Cruze-In of the season from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Elm Street between Main and Second streets.

River Falls Chamber of Commerce Marketing Manager Judy Berg says the event will feature a wide variety of pig-inspired activities.

Among those are an amateur cook-off competition at 11 a.m., which will be judged by celebrities including: Amanda Sazama, FFA Alumni president; Boyd Huppert, KARE-11 reporter; Dean Van Galen, UWRF chancellor; River Falls Mayor Dan Toland; Drew Nussbaum, regional tourism specialist, Wisconsin Department of Tourism; and John Brewer, Pioneer Press reporter and BBQ competitor.

Chris Blasius, Chamber of Commerce CEO, says there are eight entries, but they would like to have about 12-15 submissions for the amateur competition.

Rules and entry forms are available at the River Falls Bacon Bash website,

Amateurs are not the only ones who will be showcasing their finest bacon dishes; professional cooks will also be whipping up some bacon delights. Judging of those dishes will be done by the people, with the winner being crowned “People’s Choice.”

Food vendors will be selling 3-ounce sample portions of the dish for $5. Attendees will need to buy tickets to redeem for the sample and then judge who has the best bacon concoction.

Champions of both contests will then be eligible to compete at the Bacon World Championship Competition held this November in Las Vegas.

Berg said that officials at the world championship contacted them since “not a lot of bacon festivals have competitions.”

To wash down the tantalizing dishes, River Falls Bacon Bash will feature a variety of local micro-brewed beer from vendors such as: American Sky Beer, Leinenkugel, Pitchfork Brewing, and local Rush River Brewing Company.

Blasius said that the city of River Falls has given the festival an open container variance with a designated cup for downtown River Falls.

She added that cups will be sold at participating locations for $3 and that micro-craft beer will be sold for $4.

Establishments in downtown River Falls, according to Blasius, will be selling other beer, such as Miller and Budweiser.

The free event will feature a number of other activities including a marketplace, with vendors selling a lots of items.

There will be a pig wing eating competition at 2 p.m. -- contestants can call in advance or sign up at the festival.

Those not looking to chow down on pig wings can feel free to belly up to the microphone and let out their best pig call. “Piggies” of all ages are encouraged to let out their inner swine.

Others can go “hog wild” during the swine “flew” competition, which features the flinging of squeaky toys, called a Farmyard Flyshot Flyer.

Both Berg and Blasius said that chamber staff has been busy being “guinea pigs,” trying out the flyers to ensure all goes well during the festival.

Other free family activities include an FFA feed activity, education area, and craft area, featuring piggy banks, pig noses, and pig ears.

Berg said that UW-River Falls will be providing live pigs for a petting zoo and that the event will also have pig races.

At noon, River Falls Bacon Bash goers are encouraged to dress their pets up and take part in the pet parade.

She added, smiling, “Pet pigs are welcome and will not be discriminated against.”

Throughout the day bluegrass music from Everett Smithson can be heard.

Coming onto Main Street, festival goers can traverse the downtown area and view a wide variety of classic vehicles.

Blasius said this Car Cruze-In tends to be the largest and will feature 1950s and 1960s music.

@by:New fall fest

@t:With the success of the Bluegrass Festival in spring and River Falls Days in summer, the chamber-led tourism committee was looking for something for the fall.

The tourism committee, which includes: Bryan Fish, Country Inn River Falls; Casey Cook and Cedric Ellingson, Bo’s ‘N Mine; Chris Blasius, Judy Berg and Maranda Mahr, River Falls Chamber; Cory Hart, Juniors; Craig Hoffland, Is It2B Marketing; Damon Holter, St. Croix Valley Foods; Debra Overbye, The Servant Quarters Bed and Breakfast; Evy Nerbonne, St. Paul Pioneer Press; Heather Farrel, WestWind Supper Club; Terry Lorenz, River Falls citizen; Toni Hinz, Riverview Hotel and Suites; and Vicki Andersen, Family Fresh, met for the first time May 2, to discuss having a fall event.

Berg said that a few food festival ideas were tossed around, when Blasius mentioned a pork theme.

With a fall festival theme decided the group thought they would offer a “teaser” at the Sept. 8 Car Cruze-In, with the hopes of starting the River Falls Bacon Bash in 2014.

Blasius said they planned on a single tent and a sign, but “our little teaser event exploded.”

“Its a very hands on group and they took ownership,” she said.

Berg added the it was an “ambitious group, thinking about food, thinking about tourism,” and the momentum took off.

To market the River Falls Bacon Bash, committee member Bryan Fish suggested a large group go to a Minnesota Twins game.

In a “grassroots marketing effort,” 63 people boarded a bus on Tuesday, Aug. 27 and headed to Minneapolis.

Wearing pink River Falls Bacon Bash shirts, carrying signs and stuffed pigs, the group introduced baseball fans to the event.

Berg mentioned that the River Falls event is getting some notice, even being featured on London BBC.

While attendance numbers are an unknown at this time, Blasius said that bacon festivals are a trend right now.

She mentioned large bacon fests in Des Moines, Iowa and Chicago, but not many around Wisconsin or Minnesota.

The plan is to have it be an annual event, around this time, since according to Berg, the Saturday before Labor Day is International Bacon Day.

“In the long term, the hope is to make it stand on its own, but that may change,” said Blasius.

The tourism committee would also like to see the festival grow.

“The hope is to make it a two-day Basilica Block Party type of festival,” said Blasius.

She added, that from a tourism standpoint, they would like to encourage people to come to River Falls.

“People don’t realize how close we are to St. Paul,” said Berg.

The hope is with a strong event, “we can get them across the bridge,” she said.

For more information about the River Falls Bacon Bash, visit, the chamber website at or call the Chamber at 715-425-2533.

Jillian Dexheimer
Jillian Dexheimer has been a copy editor and reporter for the River Falls Journal since 2011. She previously worked for the River Falls Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau. Dexheimer holds a sociology degree from UW-River Falls.
(715) 426-1046