Hometown Tales Podcast

Thursday, February 17, 2005

The Birth of PA's oldest festival

Be it a commemoration of glorious victory, the first green of spring, or remembrance of our old-world heritage, the festival is usually never arbitraily created by what day is convenient on a calendar. No, the day itself (November 25th, Bastille Day, the Tuesday before Lent, January 1) and what it signifies is much more significant than the celebrations in its honor. Other times the date and time stand mute, letting the focus center on the time of season and all its machinations, as with the Tulip Time Festival of Pella, Iowa or the Winter Ice Sculpture Festival in Minneapolis and the Midnight Sun Festival of Nome, Alaska. Since the dawn of civilization, festivals act as rites of passage, links to our past, celebrations to significant dates in our collective history.

Except in McClure, Pennsylvania, where festivals are born simply because one man didn't get a bowl of bean soup.

In the summer of 1891, a group of Civil War veterans got together to celebrate the comradery of days-gone-by with an authentic bowl of Civil War style bean Soup. Civil War Bean Soup is comprised of pounds of simmering beef, white beans, suet, and hard tack. It takes hours of constant stirring and attention. This bean soup dinner was supposed to be a one time affair. But Capt. Ner B. Middleswarth, who was in charge of the night's celebration, was so busy tending to the needs of others, discovered that all the soup had been eaten before he could get a bowl, leaving him none.

Because of this, the veterans decided come back next year ... and the year after that and so on ... today, the McClure Bean Soup is Pennsylvania's oldest festival. Solely, due to one missed bowl of soup.

The McClure Bean Soup is feartured in the upcoming episode of Hometown Tales.