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Bacon fest returns

Smithfield’s annual Bacon, Bourbon & Music Fest returned to Windsor Castle Park on Oct. 2 after having been canceled last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Tickets sold out ahead of the event, bringing roughly 3,300 people to the grounds of the 18th-century homestead of Smithfield founder Arthur Smith. Attendees received a half-pound of bacon, courtesy of Smithfield Foods, and could choose from dozens of bourbons for tasting.

Each year, the nonprofit organization Smithfield VA Events hosts a trio of festivals on the park grounds to benefit other local nonprofit organizations. According to Gina Ippolito, festival director, the four principal beneficiaries of this year’s bacon fest were Angel Quilters, Smithfield Music, the Carrollton Ruritan Club and Scouts BSA — formerly known as Boy Scouts of America. The four were the intended beneficiaries of the canceled 2020 Bacon Fest.

Smithfield VA Events is a separate organization from Smithfield and Isle of Wight County’s joint tourism department, and is 100% self-sustaining with a 15-member volunteer board, Ippolito said.

The 60-plus organizations that volunteer for Smithfield VA Events also receive donations, as does the Windsor Castle Park maintenance fund for every event. This year, Smithfield VA Events hoped to raise $80,000, but Ippolito couldn’t speculate whether they’d hit that goal given the pandemic-related supply chain disruptions that have occurred nationwide this year.

The cost of production, she said, is up about 30% this year compared to past events.

“It’s transportation costs, it’s labor costs, food costs,” Ippolito said.

Smithfield VA Events’ first-ever bacon fest made its debut in 2014 as the Bacon, Bourbon & Beach Music (or BBB) Fest. The organization then dropped the third “B” four or five years ago.

This year’s bacon fest also included hand sanitizer stations — dispensing roughly 40 gallons by Ippolito’s estimate — in light of the continued COVID-19 risk with large gatherings, but no social distancing restrictions.