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Entertainment & Lifestyle

Hamburger Festival expanding to include healthier options

8/7/2014 - West Side Leader
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By Maria Lindsay

Shown above is last year’s Bobbing for Burgers contest during the National Hamburger Festival.
Photo: Krista Galloway
DOWNTOWN AKRON — More than 25 restaurants will serve up more than 50 different styles of burgers and other favorite summertime foods at the ninth annual National Hamburger Festival presented by the City of Akron Aug. 9-10 at Lock 3 Park, located at 200 S. Main St.

This year’s event will offer a new twist to the traditional fare, according to festival organizer Drew Cerza, who is president and CEO of Just Wing It Productions in New York. In addition to the tasty high-calorie classics, vendors will offer healthier burger alternatives.

According to Cerza, the new line-up of healthier burgers is being offered alongside the festival’s new initiative, “Akron Healthy Eats,” and each restaurant has been asked to serve one healthier burger option.

“I have been part of this industry for decades and have not only witnessed this major health-conscious shift in preparing meals but have also jumped on the band wagon myself,” he stated in a press release. “I don’t think that we need to lose flavor and texture to create a healthier burger; it’s about swapping the right ingredients.”

Cerza said some of these healthy options will include vegetarian burgers, turkey burgers and chicken burgers, as well as the traditional beef patties created with certified angus ground chuck. Healthy toppings will include locally grown produce and reduced-calorie fixings.

The traditional and creative burgers will make up 90 percent of the offerings, according to Cerza.

Participating restaurants serving up the burgers will compete for chargrilled glory and bragging rights in five different categories in the National Burger Cook-Off, with the awards ceremony set for Aug. 9 at 9:30 p.m. The categories include Traditional, Creative, Cheeseburger and Toppings/Special Sauce, as well as the Healthy Burger.

Visitors will be able to purchase tickets to try full, half or sample-size burgers.

Other food items and beer also will be available for purchase at the event.

In addition to the burgers, the festival will include several burger-themed contests and live music.

The contests will include:

  • On Saturday: Bobbing for Burgers will begin at 3:30 p.m. with goggle-wearing contestants diving head first for foam burgers in a kiddy pool filled with ketchup; the 2014 Hamburger Festival Queen will be crowned during the Hamburger Festival Queen Pageant at 5 p.m.; and the Ohio Hamburger Eating Championship will take place at 6:30 p.m. and feature local eaters competing to consume the most 1-pound burgers in 10 minutes; and
  • On Sunday: parents are invited to dress up their 2- to 5-year-old children in hamburger-themed costumes for the Baby Burger Contest at 1 p.m., and the Akron Fire Department will defend its title in the Fire and Vice Hamburger Throwdown at 2 p.m., featuring members of the Akron Fire Department and Akron Police Department in a hamburger-eating contest.

The festival also will include live music all weekend. On Saturday, Jim Gill will perform at 2 p.m.; Ryan Humbert will be on stage at 4, 5:30 and 7 p.m. for one-hour shows; and Separate Ways The Band: The Ultimate Tribute to the Music of Journey will perform at 8:30 p.m. On Sunday, Bongo Joe and Little Steve-O will perform at 1 p.m., and The Juke Hounds will be on stage at 3:30 p.m.

According to event officials, the festival also will feature inflatable rides inside Lock 3 Park, along with a children’s area with arts and crafts. Also, QuizMaster Dennis George will entertain at 1:30 and 5 p.m. on Sunday with contestants from the crowd, and Dennis Regling, a strolling balloon artist, will bring his talents to the festival for the sixth straight year, according to event officials.

More than 20,000 people attended last year’s event, according to Cerza. The festival is sponsored by Metro PCS and Provost Academy. Cerza said a donation from the proceeds of the festival will be made to Akron Children’s Hospital.

Admission is $5, but children younger than 8 will be admitted for free.

The festival will be open Aug. 9, noon to 11 p.m., and Aug. 10 from noon to 7 p.m.

For more details, visit www.hamburgerfestival.com.

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