“It’s the best kickoff to summer!” says Sarah Browning. It’s a happening event, scheduled on May 24 at the Virginia Living Museum. For a small fee, you receive more than you can eat, a time of fellowship and entertainment, and a contribution to local charities and the Rotary Foundation. What is it? The annual Bacon, Beer & Bourbon Bash.
The Bacon, Beer & Bourbon Bash represents the signature charity event of the Rotary Club of Warwick at City Center. The idea for the event was realized by Kevin Lyles, former president of the club. To create a noteworthy fundraising event for the club, Lyles suggested it be all about bacon because “bacon is something people just love.”
For this annual festive event, the Rotary Club enlists local restaurants and a few commercial franchises to come together and create their best version of a “bacon-inspired dish.” Now in its fifth year, the bash has historically had 11 to 14 vendors, including places like Smoke, Riverwalk, Cypress Grille, Unos, Indulge, Sinful Treats, A. Smith Bowman Distillery and Travinia Italian Kitchen & Wine Bar.
Smithfield Foods sponsors the affair and provides the bacon and other ingredients, along with the labor for setup, all free of charge. Each vendor uses the bacon to concoct a bacon dish, and those attending the event get to enjoy these dishes to their hearts’ content.
Dishes created for the bash are often unique, such as cupcakes with bacon, brownies with bacon, “Not Your Father’s Root Beer” float with bacon flavored ice cream and “millionaire’s bacon” with brown sugar and a “kick of pepper.” Last year, there was even a pig on a spit, and attendees could select their choice of meat.
The Bacon, Beer & Bourbon Bash is all about giving back to the community, adhering to the Warwick Rotary Club’s motto, “Service above Self.” The Rotary Club is well known for its role in eradicating polio, and this event offers yet another way to impact the community for the better. Monies raised from the bash typically center around helping women and children and is sometimes earmarked for food banks, the Mayor’s book club, girl and boy scouts and Virginia Living Museum. The first year, the event brought in $8,000 and, last year, that amount tripled to $24,000.
Given the number of hours that goes into making the bash happen, there are now at least 40 volunteers contributing their time and effort, with State Farm agent Sarah Browning and Warwick Rotary Club President Jennifer Daknis leading the way. “It’s all about raising money for charities,” says Browning.
“Every year we get better and better,” says Daknis. The event includes a nine-piece band, Good Shot Judy, and there are awards given for the best presentation, best use of bacon and the restaurant most favored by attendees. And this year, guests will be able to create their own drinks and be schooled in the art of wine tasting.
The Bacon, Beer & Bourbon Bash is one big community party and, says Browning, “It’s the most fun doing good you’ll ever have.”
TO THE POINT
Bacon, Beer & Bourbon Bash
Contact: Sarah Browning, State Farm agent and Rotary member; Jennifer Daknis, Rotary Club of Warwick at City Center president