The Bean Bash – a down-home, big-hearted October tradition at Turfway Park in Florence – gets under way this weekend. It’s an event filled with family, friends and co-workers, food, auctions and entertainment, all coming together to help children and adults with disabilities in Northern Kentucky.
The weekend starts with painting and poker Friday night. Volunteers fire up the kettles for the Bash’s signature bean soup early Saturday morning before the start of the Bean Bash Dash, a 5K walk/run. Soup’s on at 1 p.m., and served with it are cornbread, coleslaw, tomatoes, hotdogs, chips, ice cream and soft drinks, all included in the $5 admission. Children under 12 are free.
This will be the event’s 43rd year. That’s a lot of years. And a lot of beans.
To learn more about the event, and all those beans, I talked with Bean Bash President Donnie Martin, who first got involved with the Bash about 10 years ago as a bartender. He moved on to oversee the Texas Hold ‘Em tournament for a few years and is now in his third year as president. Here’s a condensed version of our conversation supplemented with information he sent me.
Q: I have a daughter with special needs, and I was touched by how many of her friends we’ve seen at the Bean Bash over the years. It’s a huge event but has a welcoming, close-knit feel – like a church festival or something similar. How would you characterize it?
A: It’s a very similar atmosphere as a church festival, but with a lot more wonderful items to be won in the silent and live auctions. Everyone is welcome, from the most able-bodied athlete to those with special needs who may not often get to special events like festivals.
I greatly enjoy seeing the clients of the specials needs charities in attendance for a couple reasons. First I’m glad to see so many of them out and about, and I hope that helps them see they are not alone and that many others go through what they go through. Second I hope the Bean Bash opens other people’s eyes by introducing them to people with special needs that they may not have experienced before.
I grew up with a step sister with special needs. When we first met I didn’t understand why she was the way she was. That wasn’t easy to handle at 7 years old. Some people reach adulthood with little to no interaction with a person with special needs. Years ago, families with special needs children were shunned, embarrassed, and often hid or abandoned their children with special needs. Now they have options, and the Bean Bash supports local charities that provide those options.
Q: How much money does the Bean Bash raise?
A: Last year the event brought in a record $121,250. Some money came out of that to cover costs, but we try not to pay for much. Donations from local businesses and individuals keep our expenses down. I would guess we have less than $5,000 in expenses and that might be high.
We support four local charities that serve people with disabilities: BAWAC; New Perceptions, which was added last year; Redwood; and Special Olympics of Northern Kentucky. Each organization collects auction items and receives the proceeds from those. The Bean Bash board’s portion – money from the door, donations, live auction items, and extra events like the 5K and poker tournament – is divided evenly among the charities.
Q: What’s new at this year’s Bean Bash?
A: We were looking for an event to complement the Texas Hold ‘Em tournament on Friday night and decided on a Wine and Paint event, sponsored by Wine & Canvas of Florence. The cost is $45, which includes supplies and step-by-step instructions to create a piece of artwork to take home. A glass of wine or a cocktail, light food, and admission to Saturday’s Bean Bash are also included.
The Wine and Paint will start at 7 p.m., the same time as the Texas Hold ‘Em tournament. Both will take place on Turfway’s third floor. Registration for the Wine and Paint ends Wednesday, Oct. 5. Participants can register at www.beanbash.org or contact Becky Price at 859-760-3951 for group discounts and pricing. The $75 online preregistration for the Texas Hold ‘Em ends Thursday, Oct. 6. Players can register at the door for $85. The door to both events opens at 6 p.m. on Friday.
We’ve never stayed open after the live auction, but this year we’re having an after-auction concert by popular local band Doghouse. The band has quite a following, so we’re hoping the concert will bring more people out.
Another exciting addition is an employment drive. During the Bash, FedEx will be set up to accept applications for full- and part-time jobs at FedEx Ground in Independence.
Bean Bash by the numbers:
Years held: 43
Organizations helped: 4
Guests expected: more than 2,000
Volunteers: about 300
Bowls of soup: nearly 2,000
Pounds of dried beans: 200
Large pans of cornbread: 40
Hot dogs: 1,200
Bags of chips: 1,000
Gallons of Ice cream: 50
Q: The Bean Bash added a trap shoot last year as an additional way to raise money. How did this year’s trap shoot go?
A: It went well, especially since the rain held off. We had 25 shooters in the tournament, and raised about $1,000. Last year we held the trap shoot on a date after the Bean Bash. This year we did it beforehand, on Sept. 17. We had a lot more people come out this year, and we hope to keep it growing. It was sponsored by the Crittenden AAA Gun Club and held at the Lloyd Wildlife Management Area.
Q: Where do the Bean Bash volunteers come from?
A: We have students who volunteer from many schools including Boone County, Cooper, Ryle, Notre Dame, St. Henry, Covington Catholic, and Immaculate Heart of Mary. Other volunteers include the charities’ employees, Boone County Business Association members, local pageant winners, news personnel, local celebrities, and family and friends of the Bean Bash board and charities.
Q: Who are the people on the Bean Bash logo?
A: The face on the right represents former State Representative Bill McBee, who founded the Bean Bash as a political fundraiser in 1974. The other face is that of Stevie McBee, Bill’s son, who had special needs. Stevie inspired organizers to transform the Bean Bash into a fundraiser for charities serving people with disabilities. Stevie died in 2009, and Bill in 2011.
Many people thought for years that the Bean Bash was a political event, but it has been a charity fundraiser since 1975. No campaigning is allowed.
Q: How is that soup made?
A: The beans get soaked the night before, and the cooks arrive before 6 a.m. to fire up the kettles. Sand goes down on the parking lot, and cooks build fires to set the kettles over, using air deflectors to help regulate the heat. Piles of wood are out there for the cooks to feed the fire. The health department is out there to make sure everything is set up right.
When the water is boiling, the ham hocks go in. Once cooked, the hocks come out and the ham is cut off, chopped and set aside. Next go in the beans, white pepper and onions to cook. Eventually we throw in the ham from the hocks and extra ham. Sometimes hot sauce gets put in, sometimes it doesn’t – it’s always a matter of opinion depending on whose out there cooking.
The soup is cooked for hours in the same cast iron kettles and stirred by the same wooden oars we’ve used for years. They probably have their own special seasoning. One seasoning that’s not added to the beans is salt. We stopped using that years ago, so if you like your beans salty, you need to use the salt packets offered with the meal.
Usually a couple of generations of people come out to cook. Several of the bean cookers started out as kids helping their fathers. They use the lessons they learned as kids to bring their youth into the world of community service.
Bean Bash 2016 Schedule of Events
Friday Oct. 7
6:00 p.m. Registration Open
7:00 p.m. Wine and Paint event begins
Texas Hold ‘Em Tournament begins
Saturday Oct. 8
10:00 a.m. The Bean Bash Dash 5K registration opens
11:30 a.m. The Bean Bash Dash 5K begins
1:00 p.m. The Bean Bash begins, admission $5.00 (kids under 12 free)
1:00 p.m. Silent auctions begin / All charities have items for auction
2:00 p.m. Live music begins
4:15 p.m. First silent auction table closes (Redwood)
4:30 p.m. Second silent auction table closes (Special Olympics NKY)
4:45 p.m. Third silent auction table closes (New Perceptions)
5:00 p.m. Fourth silent auction table closes (BAWAC)
5:00 p.m. The 43rd Bean Bash remarks and presentations
5:30 p.m. Live auction begins
7:30 p.m. (estimated) Doghouse rocks The Bean Bash