A couple of years ago, Joe and I were trying to plan a romantic weekend away. I knew Mountain View, Arkansas (read A Weekend Away in Mountain View, Arkansas) would be beautiful in the fall so I searched for a bed and breakfast or little cabin to reserve. Hotel, motel, cabin and B&B gave me the same reply, “No vacancy.” I finally asked the next “No” why all of Mountain View seemed to be booked up. “Oh, that’s the Bean and Outhouse Race Festival weekend. We book up to a year in advance!”
Well, we changed out weekend date, but made ourselves a vow, “We must checkout this Bean extravaganza next year!”
Hotels get full early for Beanfest, so book now!
Every year on the last Saturday of October, the little town of Mountain View, Arkansas swells from 2,800 to over 60,000 people. For the last two years, we have fulfilled our quest and attended the Beanfest and Championship Outhouse Races. It by no means is a romantic weekend, unless you find bowl after bowl of beans lovey-dovey, BUT, you can’t beat it for a unique, memorable experience.
It all starts around 7 a.m. Saturday morning on Main Street, when 2,000 pounds of Great Value dry pinto beans get loaded into 30-40 kettles. Teams start cooking the beans, each with what they believe will be a winning combination of seasonings. Pots are stirred with boat oars and tasting is done periodically to ensure the best bean batch!
Teams also dress in coordinated costumes and decorate their booths in hopes of winning extra prizes.
Conducting a bean taste test.
Around 11 a.m. the judging of the beans begins. Spectators try the gauge the judges’ faces to know which line to get into. Even though all the beans and cornbread are free, you don’t want to waste time trying bad beans. That would be a tragedy! Teams that have signs touting previous wins start having people line up in front of their booths early.
Last year, we were running to the local Wal-mart to buy hats and gloves because of freezing weather. This year it was unusually hot with record 89 F/ 32 C. That’s crazy weather for the end of October. Standing in the sun to get a bowl of beans may seem like a silly way to spend a Saturday morning. You would be correct. It’s silly, random fun, and does much to make this country girl smile. I grew up in the rural woods of southern Arkansas, so I feel a kinship to this redneck mode of entertainment.
These are my people!
At noon, the winners are announced and the dinner bell is rung up and down Main Street. Teams start serving up their kettles of beans as fast as they can fill up the bowls. If you finish one bowl, just jump in another line. Beans keep flowing until its all gone. If you don’t like one team’s concoction, no problem. It’s free. There are 30+ other lines you can try.
An hour after the dinner bell rings, the real redneck fun begins. Imagine an outhouse on wheels with a driver and two bobsled-type pushers. Two teams race at a time, vying for the coveted Gold, Silver, and Bronze toilet seat awards and cash prizes. You would think it would be all laughs, but there is some serious competition going on. Hay bales line the course in case the outhouse pushers lose control. There are definite crowd favorites, especially for the comically dressed.
Parade of the Outhouse Racers
Nightly Bluegrass Pickin’
Mountain View is a center for bluegrass music, and the weekend of Beanfest is no exception. Throughout the weekend, musicians gather together in the city park, underneath trees, and by storefronts to play bluegrass, folk, and old gospel tunes. There is no prepared set or even acknowledgement that there is an audience. It’s like you’re just listening in to a private jam session.
I have a friend who plays the banjo and has been to the festival the last two years. He explained like this. You bring your instrument and a chair. You see another musician and ask them what they play, if they play something different than you, you invite them to pick, soon others join in. Then spectators start setting up their chairs to listen in. During most weekends in Mountain View and especially during Beanfest, there can be dozens of impromptu picking sessions around the courthouse square downtown. There is music around every corner, some not so good, some better than any paid concert.
Do you like going to food festivals? Please share by commenting below!
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