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Tiffany and Brian Barta watch the band “Accoust Hicks” perform in the rain at the first Bacon and Beer Fest held Saturday in the Sanford Center parking lot. Malachi Petersen | Bemidji Pioneer

Bacon, beer and rain{ Festival overcomes weather raises money for charity

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BEMIDJI -- More than 100 people braved overcast skies and rain to attend the first-ever Bacon and Beer Fest Saturday in the Sanford Center parking lot.

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For $15 or less attendees were able to listen to a battle of the bands, watch pig races, and compete in yard games. A portion of the proceeds went to benefit the nonprofit organization United Way. Tanya Hasbargen, executive director of the the Bemidji area United Way, said the charity will use the money to help fund local organizations.

"The proceeds of the event will go all towards this fall's campaign and will continue to support 30-plus organizations in the community," Hasbargen said.

Curtis Webb, the head organizer of the festival, said that a lot of thought went into the planning of the event.

"We started off just trying to figure out where to do it, how to do, (the) timing of it," Webb said.

Webb also said it was a good way for the community to get out after a hard winter.

"It's a chance to get out and enjoy a kind of block party prior to the Axeman game."

The festival, which was presented by August Schell Brewery, also brought together nine food vendors to showcase creative uses of bacon and beer. Each vendor was able to enter an entry into a contest for best bacon and beer creation.

One of the vendors at the event was Althea's Cakery, which showcased its bacon and beer cupcakes, including the "Stud Muffin."

"It's more of a biscuit, kind of like a breakfast," owner Melinda Sandwick said. "There's candied onions in it, extra sharp cheddar cheese, bacon, and it's mixed with a beer, a pale ale. It's got cream cheese, and a guinness drizzle, and caddied maple bacon with chives."

Sandwick said the cakery used to be in Bemidji before her family moved back to her hometown of Fosston.

"We wanted to be here to participate in a Bemidji event, let people know who are familiar with us that we're still here just not in Bemidji," Sandwick said.

Midway through the festival, the skies opened up and hard rain downpoured on the area. Beer and bacon enthusiasts were forced to eat and drink under tents while the band that had been playing retreated to a drier location.

The downpour was only a mild inconvenience as a few people braved the weather to run across the parking lot to buy themselves another beer.

Among the festival-goers who ran to a tent to stay dry was Chad Cuddihy.

"If it wasn't for the rain it'd be going well -- it should be a good time if it lets off," he said.

After no more than 20 minutes of rain, a break in the weather allowed the event to continue and the festivities resumed with the start of the pig races.

Sponsored by the Bemidji Farmer's Co-op, the races featured a fenced-in track which allowed pigs to run in a wide loop as children and adults alike yelled for their favorite pigs.

Keith Marek said he enjoyed the food at the festival and thought it was a good start for the first year of the event.

"I just wanted to check this out. It's the first one that they've had," he said. "I think it's a pretty good base that (we) have here, to build upon for hopefully a few more years."

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