McClure Bean Soup Festival & Fair

The McClure Bean Soup festival was started as a reunion for civil war soldiers.  My 3rd great grandfather, J. A. Lumbard, was one of the veterans of company G 147th who took part in this festival.  (See reunion pic at the bottom of this page).  So for years, getting to this festival has been on my to do list.  It's a little over an hour from where we live, in an absolutely stunning mountain area, full of rolling farm land.  (There's also a geocache there

The GAR held many get-togethers and observed "bean soup festivals" from time to time. In 1891 the public was invited for the first time to the Civil War bean soup dinner.

The festival is held at 30 E Ohio St, McClure, PA 17841.  You will have to pay to park, but the cost is minimal and benefits local causes.  One lot was to benefit the pool renovations, another was to benefit the VFW, etc.  We parked at the VFW lot, for $2, and walked two blocks to the fair.  It's free admission into the fair itself.

I was surprised to see the field of rides when we first got there.  Even a ferris wheel.  At first we thought maybe it was more of a carnival, but the more we walked (because of how it is laid out, you don't realize how big it is until you walk around a bit) we saw it was a full all out fair.  This was no local history festival, no carnival...  it was much more similar to the Lycoming County Fair than to anything else I've been to.

FInally I found one little stand - no history, but it sold t-shirts, little kettles (perfect for a christmas ornament) and history books from the 100th anniversary in 1991.  The books were 50 cents, the kettle was $4 - the prices were incredibly reasonable.

This lone civil war tent was off to the side, away from the fair, and was the only sign, other than the actual signs, & the bean soup,  of the fairs history.

The signs were probably my favorite thing here.  You can see more of them here -

Other than that stand, and a few signs, there was almost no sign of the origins of this festival.  No civil war encampment, no re-enactors from the 147th regiment...  just this one lone tent, and a pavilion where bean soup was made and served.  These were tucked in among all the big flashy game and food stands you find at all fairs.  

Making bean soup in 1910

Making bean soup in 2015

The soup is made in large iron kettles over a wood-fired battery of furnaces capable of handling 16 large iron kettles at one time. Volunteers stir two of the kettles during two hours and twenty minute shifts.

It is not a traditional bean soup in the sense it does not contain ham but rather beans, hamburger and suet.  It was $4 a bowl, or $7 to take home a qt.  We brought home a qt, as it was too hot to enjoy bean soup, but I really wanted to taste it.  :-)  Since we were taking it home, we had the option to buy a container that was cold - which was nice.

The fair exhibit hall was small, much smaller than most of our local fairs (such as Montour Delong or Lycoming) but it was nice. 

Don't get me wrong, this was a NICE fair.  And free admission!  But it was definitely not the historical festival I was expecting. 

You can see all of my pics from our visit to the fair here -
(there were too many to put them all on this page)

More about Joseph A. Lumbard:

More about the early Bean Soup Festivals -

More about Company G 147 -

The Bean Soup Fair Website -
Facebook page -
On Instagram - #mclurebeansoup
More pics from our visit to the festival -