NEWBERRY ‒ The phrase “Everything Tastes Better with Bacon” took on new meaning this past weekend at the Alachua County Agricultural & Equestrian Center. The Barbeque and Bacon Festival featured over 70 arts and craft vendors and 11 food vendors featuring some of the best barbecue trucks in North Central Florida.

“People love barbecue,” said Margaret Buckler, founder of Buckler Shows who organized the event. “We had people come all the way from the other side of Jacksonville over the weekend. They like to try different barbecues and we had a good variety of styles at the festival.” Buckler says that in addition, several of the food vendors had various recipes for bacon, including chocolate covered bacon.

Buckler has been organizing events and festivals since 1989 and now averages 15 events per year throughout Florida. Originally Buckler Shows did smaller craft shows but has continued to expand and now does six strawberry and two blueberry festivals in Florida. Buckler came up with the idea to create additional festivals based around barbecue due to its popularity in the South.

The event had more to offer than barbecue and craft vendors. “We provide activities including rock painting for kids, a petting zoo, sack race and a bacon relay with contestants carrying a fake bacon strip across a field with tongs,” said Buckler employee June Font. “There are multiple games and activities for all ages as well.”

Font said the idea is to make the event entertaining for everyone so they give free space to other activity vendors including axe throwing, face painting, pony rides and a batting cage. Font says they also had bounce houses and train rides for kids.

“We also keep the entry fee low at $6 with an additional $1 discount if people bring canned goods, which we donate to the Hitchcock Field & Fork Pantry program,” said Font. Part of the proceeds goes to Veteran of Foreign Wars Post 211, which helps homeless or financially troubled veterans get back on their feet. All events feature live music, with local band Centerlane this weekend’s featured entertainment.

Among all the entertainment and activities, the biggest draw was the free Frisbee Dog Show by the group Disc-Connected K-9s. The group uses rescued or shelter dogs to showcase their abilities. Their dogs compete in frisbee challenges and put on exhibits throughout the world including winning several world championships. Disc-Connect also helps find homes for over 30 shelter dogs per year.

“This was our first Barbecue and Bacon event in Newberry,” said Fonts. “We had over 5,000 people attend over the two days so we are happy with the turnout and are hoping to make this an annual event here in January.”

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