GLOVERSVILLE - The third annual Bacon Jam Saturday in Gloversville featured more bands, more food vendors and an estimated record turn out of an estimated 4,000 people.
It was also the last downtown event organized by outgoing Fulton County Center for Regional Growth downtown development specialist Jennifer Jennings. Jennings is at the end of her three-contract to help spur a redevelopment strategy for Gloversville, based on the "place-making" urban planning philosophy.
Jennings tenure included organizing events meant to give people a reason to return to the city's downtown. Some had initial success like the summer Twilight Markets, which ran for two years, but were then discontinued for lack of participation. Others, like the first "100in1 Day" held in the United States on May 4 — an event first organized by urban planning students in Bogotá, Colombia, before spreading to more than 30 cities worldwide — helped reestablish Gloversville as nationally-known city.
But through it all, Jennings has had success with Bacon Jam, which has grown steadily in participation.
"People will do crazy things for bacon," Jennings said.
Among those in attendance Saturday was Christopher Lasnick, of Johnstown, who has been to every bacon jam. He said the event has only gotten better each year.
"It's something that gets me out of the house. I love bacon, and the live music has been excellent, probably my favorite part," he said.
Some of the bands at the event included Craic Agus Ceol, The Stinky Boots String Band, Duane Mark & Co. and The Insolent Willies.
Christ Doucas, owner of Cooperstown-based Tickled Pink BBQ, said he brought his business to Bacon Jam for the first time Saturday at the invitation of Jennings. He said he specializes in pulled pork sandwiches, but he decided to prepare 15 pounds of bacon strips, which he applied to all of his products. He said his cheeseburger with bacon was a top-seller Saturday. He also put bacon on pizza, bacon on hotdogs and a T-shirt with a pig design on himself.
"We put bacon on everything today," he said.
Jennings, who was always an independent contractor providing essentially a consulting and event organizing business for downtown, has decided to establish a business called Urban Askew, which will be a consulting firm for communities where she can help other communities with similar issues to Gloversville.
"Gloversville is a unique place, but not a unique story, other communities need revitalization. I've learned that Gloversville is weird, wonderful and very proud, and that's the tagline that we use, the hashtag that we use across everything, because it sums us up," she said. "To be completely honest, the community was looking for a cheerleader to say this is a fantastic place. They just needed a little encouragement. During 101Day — I cried the whole week — because I was so proud of everybody."
Jennings described the biggest problem she faced in Gloversville.
"The nostalgic despair, looking to the past instead of the future. The truth is we have an amazing past, a phenomenal past, but we have an amazing future. It's just going to be difficult, and different, it's not tied to making gloves or the leather industry. It's going to be tied to people in the community that make it a warm and welcoming place in the community," she said.
Johnstown-based Townsend Leather set up a table at Bacon Jam to showcase the success of the company's pigskin related products. Townsend Human Resources Director Pamela Goldswer said most of Townsend's products are made from cowskin, but the company has recently expanded its line of pigskin products, which has led directly to expanding the workforce at the plant from about 120 to 165, all but about five of them full-time workers. She said Townsend's biggest pigskin customer is Wolverine World Wide Inc., which uses the durable pig derived leather for suede used for the made-in-America line of New Balance sneakers.
Gloversville 5th Ward Supervisor Greg Young worked Bacon Jam's bracelet-only biergarten area, which featured the craft beers of Stump City Brewing in Gloversville; Rare Form Brewing Company of Troy; Serious Brewing Company from Howes Cave; and Nine Pin Cider Works from Albany.
The number of bracelets sold for the biergarten increased year-over-year from 183 to more than 200 mid-way through the event.
Young said it will be a priority for Fulton County Center for Regional Growth, which is primarily funded by the county government, to replace Jennings.
"The plan is to replace her. We need to continue this momentum," Young said.