RIO GRANDE — For the 142nd year, the Rio Grande Memorial Association will honor those who fought in the Civil War with the Annual Rio Grande Bean Dinner.
Started in 1871, the original gatherings were a way to bring the community together and remember those who fought in the Civil War by providing a meal similar to what soldiers would eat in the field. While the location for the event changed numerous times in its earlier days, Bob Evans Farms has served as its host for the past 41 years.
According to Ohio University Southern history professor Bob Leith, who will be on hand again this year to deliver an address on the Bean Dinner’s history, at one time the Bean Dinner was a huge draw to visitors.
“The interesting thing, people only came to Rio Grande for two major reasons back in the late 1800s and early 1900s. They came to the college to watch graduation and see their relatives and friends graduate at a place called Rio Grande College founded in 1876, and they came to the bean dinners,” Leith said at a previous year’s event. “I don’t think anybody here could really believe that special trains would be charted to bring people to Gallipolis for them to come see these.”
In the early days, Union soldiers would be invited to the Bean Dinner as guests and would arrive in uniform to be honored.
As the years went by, attendance to the Bean Dinner has had its ups and downs, ranging from five people to 600 people. Regardless, those who dedicate their time to keeping the tradition alive continue to gather around the large kettles and deliver to the community an opportunity to gather together and remember times often forgotten.
In addition to Leith, Frank Bullock will also appear at this year’s dinner as General William T. Sherman. The 142nd Annual Rio Grande Bean Dinner will take place on August 11 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Bob Evans Farms Shelter House in Rio Grande, Ohio. The first 50 paid guests will receive a free newly designed Bean Dinner T-shirt. The cost is $3 for all the beans you can eat. Sausage sandwiches, corn bread, soft drinks and desserts will be available for purchase from local groups.
Everyone is invited to attend, enjoy a good meal and listen to a little piece of the Village of Rio Grande’s history.