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It’s called Bacon Expo

By Staff | Oct 24, 2013

THE IOWA PORK QUEEN, center, and other competitors did their best to eat half a pound of bacon in the shortest amount of time during the bacon-eating contest at the Bacon Expo.

AMES – It has been said that money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy bacon, which to Iowa State University students is about the same thing.

ISU boosted Ames’ happiness quotient Saturday in a big way when it hosted the first-ever Bacon Expo.

“People are bacon crazy,” said Jake Swanson, 21, an ISU student from Ottumwa who serves as president of ISU’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Student Council. “We were excited to host the first student-run Bacon Expo in the nation, which is helping reconnect consumers with agriculture.”

The 1,200 tickets for the Bacon Expo went on sale Sept. 6 and sold out within two days. During the four-hour event, guests of all ages sampled bacon-inspired cupcakes, cookies and traditional bacon items at more than 20 vendor and ISU student club tents in ISU’s Scheman Center courtyard.

“We were excited to have such a wide array of bacon products and vendors,” said Kristin Liska, an ISU senior majoring in animal science who co-chaired the Bacon Expo. “These vendors really highlight the versatility of bacon.”

More than 1,200 pounds of bacon were served during the event, where vendors included Scratch Cupcakery, Webster City Custom Meats, Hormel Food Corp., Cookies, the Iowa State Meat Lab, Reiks View Farms, Berkwood Farms and the Iowa Pork Producers Association (IPPA).

“If you love bacon, thank a pork producer,” said Joyce Hoppes, IPPA’s consumer information director. “It’s exciting to see so many people sampling bacon and learning about the pork industry.”

Sense of adventure

Two of the main events during the Bacon Expo included a bacon-inspired fashion show and bacon-eating contests.

During the “How Do You Wear Your Bacon?” competition, teams of two to three people had one hour to create a garment highlighting bacon. The teams were judged and featured on stage following the competition.

“I’m a big bacon fan, so when a friend asked if I’d like to be in the bacon fashion show, I thought it would be fun,” said Kellen Gorman, 18, an ISU freshman architecture major who adorned his hat, tie and suspenders with 4.5 pounds of bacon.

The whole Bacon Expo experience amazed Carine Kunzler Souza from Brazil, who is working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to study swine viruses. “We don’t have anything like this in Brazil,” said Souza, who said she enjoyed the barbecue bacon samples from ISU’s Block and Bridle Club and ISU Meat Lab.

As a fun, family-friendly event, the Bacon Expo offered a unique way to highlight pork production and Iowa agriculture, said Swanson, who first proposed the idea in February.

“As the No. 1 pork-producing state in the country,” Swanson said, “Iowa farmers know pork. As the home of the world-renowned meats laboratory, ISU knows meat. The Bacon Expo brought together bacon enthusiasts and increased consumers’ awareness ISU’s outstanding College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, as well as bacon and pork production in Iowa.”

This is just the start of big things to come, added Swanson, who is a fan of chocolate-covered bacon.

“We hope that our visitors walked away with a smile on their face,” Swanson said, “and some knowledge of agriculture they didn’t have before.

“We’ll absolutely host another Bacon Expo.”

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