NEW CASTLE — Volunteers stirring the beans over an open fire noted that it was a fine day for the 145th Annual G.A.R. Bean Dinner, Sunday at McElwee Park in New Castle. The temperatures did reach the upper 70s by late afternoon but it was comfortable when visitors began arriving at 11 a.m.
Cornbread, sandwiches, homemade salads and pies, and of course beans, all go into the pot that is the focus of the event. There was also lively music, a homemade ice cream concession trailer, and the crowning of a king or queen, selected each year by an unnamed committee.
New Castle’s event is one of only four Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) bean dinners held in Ohio. They originated as a reunion of veterans of the Civil War and to raise funds for local widows and orphans of those who gave their lives. The beans were served as a reminder of the meals the troops ate in the field. The group is no longer active today, but the tradition carries on.
Church services hosted by New Castle Ministries were held in the morning followed by the raising of the flag by local Boy Scouts.
But actually the day began long before that when father and son, Chuck and Brian Johnson, and brothers, Ed and Kenny Moran, began cooking the beans at 6 a.m., after they had been washed, sorted, and soaked the night before. They cooked in large iron kettles over an open fire and were done by 9:30 a.m.
The recipe is simple: 80 pounds of navy beans, pork shoulders, five pounds of butter, onions, and salt and pepper. Johnson said they were done cooking early this year.
This was Chuck Johnson’s fifth year helping out and he recruited Brian. Johnson works for the Knox County highway department and is also a farmer.
For the rest of the story
The rest of this article is available to Mount Vernon News subscribers. To continue reading, please log in or purchase a subscription. Click here for the August 20, 2012 e-edition. The article will only be available for thirty (30) days.