Just about everything’s better with bacon.
Waffles, salads, casseroles and chocolate. Doesn’t matter if it’s for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
And if it’s Benton’s bacon, you’ve struck gold. Allan Benton, owner of Benton’s Smoky Mountain Country Hams in Madisonville, sells his famous hickory smoked bacon worldwide. The best of the best restaurants around the globe serve his products, which are all made right here. The business got its start in 1947.
Bring that signature dry-cured bacon together with some of the best regional chefs, and it will be a culinary delight not to be missed. The good news is, you don’t have to travel outside Blount County for the experience because of Bacon at the Bear.
The second annual Bacon at the Bear will take place from 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 5 at Dancing Bear Lodge. The event is open to the public and serves as a fundraiser for New Hope, Blount County Children’s Advocacy Center.
The atmosphere will be casual as guests enjoy an outdoor fire pit, music and the culinary delights guest chefs will prepare. It’s being described as An Appalachian Culinary Experience. Benton attended last year and may do so again.
“The chefs make the event,” said New Hope board member Shane Hair. “That and Dancing Bear is a fantastic venue. They have a new pavilion that is opening up.”
In addition to delectable food and fun atmosphere, Bacon at the Bear will also have wine tastings and a silent auction, again to raise money for New Hope.
Last year’s Bacon at the Bear sold out at 150 tickets. This year, 200 will be the maximum.
Tabitha Damron is executive director for New Hope, which holds two other major fundraisers each year. The money raised will go to various programs at New Hope, an advocacy center that offers a safe place for child victims of sexual and physical abuse. Clients are ages birth to 17.
The center, which opened in 2003, has been set up to be the child’s office where multiple agencies come to deliver services in one place. That allows the child victims to have to tell their traumatic story once once.
Before the center was created, child abuse victims had to go through multiple interviews in multiple locations — the police station, emergency room, professional offices and where the abuse took place.
The team response New Hope uses includes interviewing, counseling and medical services. There will be an increase in the number of child abuse cases that are successfully prosecuted because of this model, according to New Hope.
“Our people are our programs,” Damron said. The funds raised at Bacon at the Bear will be used for programs that aren’t grant supported. Of the nine sources of funding that New Hope uses, the largest is government grants at 31 percent, followed by fundraising, at 30 percent, Individual contributions are 10 percent of New Hope’s budget.
Child abuse victims face a long journey of recovery in most cases. Some people think once a child is removed from the abusive situation, that is the end of it, but these children have lots of emotional issues to work through, Hair said. “It takes a lot of therapy to get these kids back on track,” he said.
One type of therapy New Hope uses is called SMART, or Sensory Motor Arousal Regulation Therapy, explained Nicole Wicker, New Hope development coordinator. It is a marrying of psychotherapy and occupational therapy, she explained, a way to help victims find calm after experiencing trauma.
This children’s advocacy center has seen its caseloads increase over the last few years. In fact, 2016 was a record-breaking year as the center saw more than 500 cases. “That was our first year to reach that,” Damron said. “We are on track to do the same this year.”
While increasing numbers aren’t what New Hope wants to see, the staff of counselors, medical professionals and other advocates, has committed itself to providing a safe place for all of them and a path to healing.
“It is an honor and privilege for us to be advocating for them, to able to provide a central location and safe place for them to go,” Wicker said.
This fundraiser will be one that foodies will enjoy, Hair and Damron said. The regional chefs will be cooking right there in the mix of guests who can observe and ask questions.
Supporters of New Hope will also want to attend, also for the culinary experience and as a way to support this agency that puts the needs of children first.
“It will be a very comfortable event,” Wicker said. “You come and hang out, eat great food, do the tastings, mingle, listen to great music and talk with your friends. It is just tons of fun.”