VINTON — Saturday marks the return of the annual Vinton Civil War Bean Dinner.
According to information provided by Vinton American Legion Post 161 commander Bob McCarley, the dinner has been held in his community for as long as he can remember. His earliest memory of the dinner was with parents and grandparents. He noted the dinner used to be held at a special site on the outskirts of Vinton on State Route 325 before being moved to Vinton Community Park. McCarley said the bean dinner is the oldest continuing tradition of its kind in Ohio.
The dinner serves as a fundraiser for Post 161 and allows members to donate to American veterans and community initiatives like local children’s baseball games.
“A lot more than most know, (the dinner) is a kind of homecoming for family in the community. We’ve had some folks come as far as Alaska,” McCarley said. “It’s traditional for people that grew up here, especially.”
McClaskey’s brothers, Robert and Gary, are said to be the chief individuals responsible for cooking 270 pounds of navy, white beans and 70 pounds of ham in their bean dinner concoction. McCarley said he remembers the McClaskey family being a major part of the dinner ever since he was a child.
According to information provided by McCarley, Vinton’s first bean dinner was held Oct. 13, 1883, by members of Corwin Post 259 Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) as a means of celebrating the anniversary of the post. It is estimated that 1,500 to 2,000 individuals attended.
Corwin post was organized in October 1882 by Vinton native William S. Matthews. He served in the 1st Ohio Heavy Artillery unit during the Civil War.
The first 10 years of the bean dinner were referred to as either a “soldier’s campfire” or “Grand Army campfire.” The dinner was held on different dates, but mostly during October, September or August. In 1893, the dinner formalized to occur on the first Saturday in August. The dinner was formalized as a homecoming event in 1910.
In 2003, Gov. Bob Taft supplied a certificate of recognition to Vinton. The former Ohio governor acknowledged the community had remembered and honored its Civil War soldiers for 120 years.
Currently, Post 161 also uses the event to honor more recent and currently serving American military veterans.
Beans can be taken home in a two-quart container for a $6 donation. The event begins at noon Saturday at Vinton Community Park. If all beans are not consumed, the dinner is anticipated to end, at latest, around 3:30 p.m.
Dean Wright can be reached at (740) 446-2342, Ext. 2103.