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A weekly series focused on Bloomington-Normal's arts community and other major events. Made possible with support from PNC Financial Services.

Let's get nuts! Beer Nuts anchors Bloomington’s newest street festival

A black, orange and blue graphic with musical notes surrounding a smiling peanut flexing its biceps. The bottom third is a silhouette of a crowd in the same color scheme. Text reads BN Nuts Festival sponsored by Beer Nuts, Saturday, Sept. 10, 1-10 p.m. Downtown Bloomington. Vendor Market, Kids' Zone, Live Music, Chef Demos, Food & Beverage Tastings
Bloomington-Normal Area Convention and Visitors Bureau
The inaugural BN Nuts Festival, from 1-10 p.m. Saturday, is presented by the Bloomington-Normal Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, Beer Nuts, The Stable Hall & Music Lounge and NTL Productions.

I don’t need a reason for a street festival, but Bloomington’s swan song to summer has a good one: nuts!

The inaugural BN Nuts Festival is all about our hometown hero of salty snacks, with Beer Nuts serving as title sponsor for an all-day party on Front Street downtown.

Festival organizer Matt Hawkins, who serves as vice president of sports and events for the Bloomington-Normal Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the inaugural BN Nuts Festival has been months in the making.

“The event came together last winter and spring,” he said.

Hawkins said the board of the Convention and Visitors Bureau tasked the organization with finding new ways to engage McLean County residents alongside efforts to promote tourism.

“What is it in Bloomington-Normal and McLean County (that) makes us stand apart from other communities? After brainstorming, we landed on Beer Nuts,” he said.

A committee put together a pitch for a street festival centered around the famous snack. The company accepted almost immediately as title sponsor, providing financial support, swag for volunteers — and packages of Beer Nuts, of course.

The festival will include more than 30 vendors, many of them highlighting the Twin City restaurant scene. Local food and beverage businesses leaned into the theme and are premiering new nut-focused recipes for festival-goers to try.

Compassionate Crumbs is hosting a bake-off, with judges assessing Beer Nuts-based desserts, and three restaurants will do chef demos from 2-4 p.m. (with free samples!). At 2 p.m., Aroma Indian Restaurant will create a spin on cashew chicken. Chef Ale’Sandra Stone, a Bloomington native, debuts a new recipe for Central Parke Bar & Grill at 3 p.m. — one of several new dining spots in the area — featuring seasoned jumbo shrimp breaded with crunchy almonds. And at 4 p.m., Shroom Shack’s chef LeeAnn Garlish’s will create vegan fried mushroom and waffle sandwiches (with almonds).

Additional food will be available for purchase from Biaggi’s, Central Illinois Bakehouse and Jurassic Grill, to name a few. Keg Grove and Lil Beaver Brewery have beverages covered, including a brand-new peanut butter and jelly wheat beer from Lil Beaver.

The first BN Nuts Festival runs from 1-10 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 10, on Front Street in downtown Bloomington. Live music, including headliners JB Strauss and Rick King's Royal Hustle, arts and crafts and a kids’ zone — complete with bouncy house, obstacle course and face-painting — will accompany scores of nutty culinary delights.

Admission is free with all food and beverages available for cash purchase. For more information, visit www.visitbn.org/bnnutsfestival.

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Lauren Warnecke is a correspondent for WGLT, focusing on arts and culture.
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