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'Bacon, Sports & Beer Celebration' Unveiled: 'The Hat Trick of Awesomeness'

By Janet Rausa Fuller | November 19, 2013 8:15am
 Chicago is home to two new food festivals, the Bacon, Sports & Beer Celebration and Donut Fest.
Bacon, Beer, Doughnut Festivals
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CHICAGO — Winter this year will be punishing — to the waistline.

The inaugural Bacon, Sports & Beer Celebration, the "hat trick of awesomeness" in the words of organizer Rob Cressy, is from 2-6 p.m. Saturday in the Great Hall at Union Station, 500 W. Jackson Blvd.

The event will bring together bacon goodies from about 20 restaurants, beer from 25 to 30 craft breweries and enough Nerf and Pop-A-Shot games to make a grown man weep with joy — though Cressy was quick to say women are more than welcome.

"Bacon, sports, beer and fun are very gender-neutral," he said. "I know it sounds dude-ish but, this isn't a sausage party. This is a bacon party."

This also is not to be confused with Baconfest, held in April.

"They're great at what they do, but you know what they lack? The extra fun," said Cressy, founder of the sports comedy website BaconSports.com.

The high-caloric fun continues on Jan. 26 with the first-ever Donut Fest, which will run from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. at the 1st Ward venue inside Chop Shop, 2033 W. North Ave.

There will be doughnuts from 15 vendors (Glazed and Infused, West Town Bakery and Beavers Coffee + Donuts are among those who've signed on) and coffee from five local roasters. A panel of judges will vote on the best doughnut.

Fest creator Alyssa Erickson isn't too worried that people will be done splurging by the time late January rolls around.

"No one's going to turn down doughnuts," said Erickson, who has partnered with Rebecca Skoch, the creator of Poutine Fest, to put on the event. (Yes, Chicago also has a Poutine Fest. It's in February.)

Donut Fest is a side gig for Erickson, a Lakeview resident who works in the life sciences industry and has had a sweet tooth since childhood.

The cake doughnuts of her youth in Marshfield, Wis., were pleasant enough, but when Erickson first tried a cinnamon crunch doughnut from Do-Rite Donuts in the Loop, "I thought I'd died and gone to heaven," she said.

She mentioned the idea of an all-doughnut festival to a co-worker this summer.

"He said, 'I would go to that,' and I thought, 'Hmm, this should happen,' " said Erickson, who said there's "definitely potential" for Donut Fest to become an annual event.

Cressy also hopes for a repeat performance of the Bacon, Sports & Beer Celebration, and then some. Last fall, he quit his day job in online advertising sales to concentrate on turning his sports- and bacon-themed website and now festival into a money-making venture with full-time staff.

Currently, about 15 freelance writers contribute to the site, which Cressy said fuses "pop culture with sports nostalgia, sports comedy and the trending topics of the day."

"Most sports blogs put girls in bikinis on their sites. That's not what we do," Cressy said. "We're building a brand right now."

He plans to expand the Bacon, Sports & Beer Celebration to another city within a year, and said he will hold several smaller events throughout the year tied to major sporting events, such as March Madness.

"Fun is at the center of what we do. My motto is: Live every day like it's a Girl Talk concert," he said.

Tickets to the Bacon, Sports & Beer Celebration are $100, though Cressy has been offering discounted tickets; check Facebook and Twitter for special offers. Admission includes 32 beer samples and unlimited bacon tastings.

Tickets to Donut Fest are not yet on sale. Proceeds from ticket sales will go to Un86'd, a nonprofit that helps restaurant industry workers in need.