Little Rock To Double-Dip Cheese Dip Championships in 2014

Some among you may have missed the announcement that the World Cheese Dip Championship, celebrated yearly in Little Rock since 2010, was going on hiatus this year.

But never fear, cheese dip aficionados, it appears there may be two cheese dip festivals in the city next year.

The presenters of the event since the first championship recently came to a parting of the ways.

Nick Rogers, who founded the championship four years ago, told Arkansas Business via email that his plan all along was to surrender control of the event once it was established.

“To that end, I left the festival in the equal care of two hands that had been there from the beginning — the Harmony Health Clinic and festival director John McClure. They indeed had some trouble aligning their visions for the event, to the extent that they ran out of time and had to cancel this fall’s festival. I was disappointed.”

Rogers said that he recently had given sole ownership and control to the Little Rock clinic, which was the championship’s charity beneficiary.

Eddie Pennell, the clinic’s director, said that Rogers had sold “the intellectual property of the Southern Cheese Dip Academy” to Harmony for $500. “He actually wanted less and we insisted on paying more,” Pennell said of Rogers. “He was willing to give it to us for $1 and we insisted on giving him $500.”

“Now we’ve gotten control of 100 percent of the event,” Pennell said. “We’re going to come back bigger and better next year. We’re sorry that we disappointed several thousand fans, that we’re not going to have it this fall. But we’ll make up for it next year.”

The Harmony Health Clinic, a free medical, dental and pharmacy clinic for the uninsured and low income in Pulaski County, has set Oct. 25, 2014, as the date for the next World Cheese Dip Championship, to be held on the grounds of the Clinton Library.

For his part, McClure said: “I want to keep everything on the up and up and not cause any hard feelings. But we just went our separate ways.”

On to the Bacon Bowl

Rogers praised McClure in his email, saying, “McClure is ambitious and full of ideas, so I’m sure his hands will be full with many other projects.”

And, indeed, they are.

Last week, McClure said he was focusing his energies on the Bacon Bowl, which was to be held Saturday at the Northwest Arkansas Mall in Fayetteville. He called it a “bacon-infused food festival” presented by Petit Jean Meats of Morrilton.

Like the cheese dip championship, the Bacon Bowl is a competition. “The public gets a sample and votes for their favorite bacon dishes,” McClure said. The winning team wins a trip to New Orleans and gets to sell their food at a festival there in March.

McClure’s company, Mac & Cheese LLC of North Little Rock, is an event-planning enterprise, and he makes his living primarily from putting on food festivals.

“Cheese dip will be back,” McClure promised. “Look for a cheese dip event in Fayetteville in 2014. And then we’ll have another cheese dip event in Little Rock next year, under a different name.”

McClure previously was a sales and marketing director for an event-planning company in New Orleans. “I did food festivals and all kinds of big events and I thought, ‘Why can’t we do this here?,’” he said.

“And so that’s kind of my focus, promoting Arkansas. My grand scheme is to turn Arkansas into a culinary destination and doing it through food festivals. I think that’s a great way to promote Arkansas foods in Arkansas, but outside of Arkansas as well.”

If there’s a theme to McClure’s food focus, it’s “bacon, cheese dip and barbecue,” he said. “I’m thinking about doing it all under one umbrella and do like the Comfort Food Festival.”

Cardiologists, you’ve been warned.