There are seminal moments that have taken place on our planet responsible for changing or creating history.
The Big Bang. The mass extinction of the dinosaurs. Cro-Magnon man. The Roman Empire adopting Christianity. The ratification of the US Constitution. The nuclear bomb. Neil Armstrong walking on the moon. Marisa Tomeii winning a ‘Best Actress’ Oscar and the 1992 McClure Bean Soup Festival.
Okay, so the last one may have you scratching your head and wondering what the McClure Bean Soup Festival has to do with man walking on the moon or an improbable Oscar win for the ‘Different World’ alum? I can explain.
(With all due respect to Marisa and Neil, in the fall of 1992, my friends and I took one small step toward a small town bizarre and one giant leap toward surmounting one unsuspecting game of skill.)
In the fall of 1992, my friends and I descended upon McClure, PA to not just attend the legendary McClure Bean Soup Festival but more specifically, to conquer the Bean Soup’s own Dime Pitch.
Steeped in a history and tradition (like after your family’s Thanksgiving dinner when all the men gather to watch football with bellies full of sleep inducing turkey and fall asleep with their zippers and pant buttons wide open, Fruit of the Looms in full view for your 4 year old niece), the Bean Soup Festival began as an unofficial veterans club. Shortly after the Civil War, the veterans of McClure started a club centered on eating copious amounts of bean soup. The Union veterans made their unofficial club a full fledged one shortly before the turn of the century. So enamored with their tasty soup the men were, they had decided to unleash it to the rest of McClure (that decision’s merit, after eating the bean soup, is up for debate). Since that time, every year, the good citizens of McClure have held their Bean Soup Festival for all to imbibe.
So what infectiously delicious ingredients make up the soup that thousands every year since 1891 flock to? Grab yourself a pen and paper. Here it is.
Take a cauldron (the kind of cauldron one might find being hovered around by a trio of witches speaking in poetic verse), deposit enough beans in to the cauldron to give yourself a hernia, about 15 pounds of chopped beef, 5 pounds of suet (Not sure of what Suet is? What if I were to tell you suet is the hard fat around the loins or kidneys of beef or mutton? Suet is used in dishes like Rag Pudding, Haggis, and Spotted dick. Spotted dick. I had to say that again), add a few gallons of water, salt and pepper for flavor, and cook until you achieve an Elmer’s glue like consistency (ironically, after your first spoonful, Elmer’s glue might be what you think about as you swallow your boiling chunky concoction). If you are unsure of the consistency, just cook until you obtain a shade of grey reminding one of what the skin tone of a TB patient might have.
Now surround the Bean Soup tent, where multiple cauldrons are boiling their McClure delicacy, with travelling carnies, nausea inducing rides, games of skill and chance and of course a French Fry vendor in a town that thinks ‘Call Waiting’ is cutting edge technology and you have yourself a true Bean Soup Festival.
The McClure Bean Soup Festival is like a cross between a Cecil B de Mille movie and an episode of COPS. Absent teeth from mouths, tee shirts from heavy metal concerts in the ‘80’s, stone washed jeans and Aqua Net teased hair intermingled with the flashing lights, the sounds of spinning rides and crying children, and the aroma of the masses of meandering people and deep fried foods. It was a true festival (I would know. I’m a bit of a connoisseur of these things.)
What the McClure Bean Soup Festival and the denizens of the town failed to realize was a group of suburban teenagers were on their way to make a, Constantine converting the world’s religion, type of dent in the annals of human history at the Festival, and the Dime Pitch in McClure, Pennsylvania.
- Gentlemen, you will permit me to put on my spectacles, for, I have grown not only gray, but almost blind in the service of my country (and bald...and cranky...and out of shape...in the service of being a parent) - George Washington
Seek and Ye Might Just Find