Rio Grande bean dinner serves 250-plus

Dean Wright -

RIO GRANDE — The village of Rio Grande held its 145th annual bean dinner at the Bob Evans Farms shelterhouse Aug. 8.

The event started at 11 a.m. and lasted until 3 p.m. Children 10 and older cost $4 and 9 and younger got in free. A bucket of beans cost $5, a dollar more than the previous year. U.S. military veterans ate free.

The event was sponosred by the Rio Grande Memorial Association, a nonprofit group with the purpose of continuing the memory of American veterans and their history.

The flag-raising ceremony was conducted at 11 a.m. and led by Veterans of Foreign Wars post 4464. Jenny Dyer Henchey led the National Anthem. Rio Grande mayor Matt Easter said a few welcoming statements.

At 11:15 a.m., volunteers served beans, crackers, coffee, water, homemade corn bread, pies, soft drinks and sausage sandwiches. At noon, Robert Leith, RGMA member, spoke to crowds about the history of the event.

Using seven black kettles, David Morgan and James Blazer cooked up a bean mixture using 50 pounds of ham and 210 pounds of beans. According to RGMA members, between 240 and 270 individuals were served that day.

Randy Skaggs, RGMA member, said the recipe for the beans is a “well-guarded secret.” He did say the bean recipe mixture uses “ground up bacon ends, onions, pepper and salt” among some of its ingredients.

Leith said bean dinners originally started as a means for the public to show appreciation for American Civil War veterans by eating what the soldiers ate during the war. Beans, bitter black coffee and hardtack were among the items offered. Hardtack was noted for being a simple and inexpensive cracker that was often filled with maggots over long voyages before being delivered to soldiers in the field. When meat was delivered to soldiers, it was often requested it was cooked and eaten first so as to prevent quick spoiling and so soldiers would have the energy to engage in an upcoming battle. Beans and hardtack were saved for long marches and sustained engagements.

“What started as a dinner to welcome all Civil War veterans, it was changed to honor all American veterans as the last Civil War veteran died in 1959 at age 117, so he said,” Leith said.

Skaggs noted that without the Bob Evans Farms’ efforts hosting the event location, the bean dinner would “not be what it is today.”

Dinner volunteers made certain to recognize all veterans in attendance. Roughly 20 made appearances. Henchey provided musical entertainment.

RGMA member Earl Mickey Morgan attended his first bean dinner in 1939. He has attended 76 of the 77 bean dinners that have passed in his life. He missed one bean dinner during his service in the military.

Dean Wright can be reached at (740) 446-2342, Ext. 2103.

Dean Wright