Two fests are going on in Chicago this weekend. Chicago Zine Fest (CZF) and Bacon Fest Chicago. Both are pretty self-explanatory provided you know what a “zine” is. For those not in the know a zine is a self-published magazine. It usually has a very small, local circulation and is often hand made though there are some which are professionally printed and have largish circulations. If you don’t know what bacon is, get out there and eat something.
Zine Fest is free. It goes from 11AM to 5? Saturday and Sunday and I had friends who were going for the first time so I went to support them. I was going to go to Zine Fest, then Challengers and then to Bacon Fest if everything worked out. Now Zine Fest is being held at the Plumbers Union Hall which is a 10 minute drive from the UIC forum where Bacon Fest is located. Bacon Fest is $100 for a 3-hour block. Your $100 only gets you into that block. Saturday lunch (12-3), Saturday dinner (7-10) or Sunday lunch (12-3). If you buy a ticket to Saturday lunch and can’t make it, you can’t get in to one of the other two. You can also pay $200 and get in to each of the sessions an hour earlier, so lunch would be 11-3. Now I realized if I went to Zine Fest as it opened I could probably get to Bacon Fest around 12:30 giving me 2 and a half hours to eat $100 worth of Bacon and not have to wait around (yes, it’s Chicago, I could easily find something to do) until 7PM. And so this became the plan. Today was the choice as it was cold and rainy and that (to my people-hating psyche) would keep the crowds down.
I got to Zine Fest around 11:15 and was relieved to discover it was the size I thought it would be. It was like any small convention and similar to CAKE. I would easily get out within an hour. I found my friends, Lizzy and Ashly, and bought stuff from them and then randomly found other stuff to buy. I also met others there working the show who I knew and bought stuff from them. Now I’m not really a zine fan, I’m a comic fan and the stuff I bought was more comic than zine. Upstairs from the main room there was also a bake sale where $3 would get a a giant bagel which I thought about then realized there was a lot of bacon in my future. That morning I almost microwaved some turkey bacon for breakfast but decided against it as it would be a mockery of things to come. I spent a little more than an hour and around $100 on stuff and decided to head over the Bacon Fest.
Traffic was a little heavy and parking not as easy to find so I hit the floor around 12:45. Now I had never been to Bacon Fest and dropping $100 to eat lots of bacon is a risky proposition. But within 5 minutes I was certain my money had been well spent. In this age of instant gratification there was no buyer’s remorse on this purchase. On the other hand it will take a while to determine if my zine purchases were worth it. My friend’s stuff, even if it’s crap — and I haven’t read anything yet, is well worth the cost but the rest is up in the air.
Bacon Fest is set up like other conventions but since you’ve pre-paid for everything all the product is free. You walk around and eat from various restaurants and vendors where they all give you single servings of bacon themed dishes or samples of bacon related products. The latter is like sampling at the grocery store. “Try the sausage? And here’s a coupon.” The restaurants have things from their menu or they create dishes specifically for Bacon Fest. Several presented very gourmet dishes my favorites being a Bacon Bourguignon, a cajun bacon and mussels dish and bacon shu-mai. The group with the shu-mai also had baconroons (bacon macaroons which were decorated to look like cute little pigs) but I reached them near the end where I was too full to sample both. Near the end it was like going to a churrascaria (like Fogo de Chão) where you were so stuffed but they kept bringing you food. Now there were some places that were “sold out” by the time I got there including Honey Butter Fried Chicken which was the only one I was sorry I missed out on. I’m not saying I wouldn’t have enjoyed the others but I didn’t know who the restaurants I missed out on were. HBFC also won a “best of” award which meant their stuff was good.
The other thing is your $100 gets you 7 alcoholic drinks. Bottled water and soda was provided free. I had two drinks and they were strong and I kept to water afterwards. Like you could probably get beer and be OK but 7 mixed drinks would have done me in. I also got a free reusable grocery bag and I bought a t-shirt. If Zine Fest had a t-shirt of their poster (they were selling reusable bags with the image) I would have bought one there. I was really full by 2:30 which didn’t stop me from still eating but decided to head out at 2:45 and went to Challengers. I got to relate both experiences and everyone there got to see me with the meat sweats. I was there until just before close (5:00) and also spent around $100.
I am currently at home wondering how my evening will be. I do not plan to go out in case I have a “bacon attack.” I have a wrestling ppv tomorrow but that will depend on how well the evening goes. This will also determine if I plan to do Bacon Fest again next year, cuz right now it seems worth it.