Bean Bash cooks up fun, raises funds

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.

donnie-martin
Bean Bash President Donnie Martin

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.

auction-tables
Bidders browse tables at the Bean Bash silent auction. The auction raises money for BAWAC, New Perceptions, Redwood and Special Olympics of Northern Kentucky.

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?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-stir
Volunteers cook the bean soup in cast iron kettles and stir it with oars.

 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

Photos provided.

At New Perceptions doors open to the arts

When you walk through the doorway of Room 227 at New Perceptions in Edgewood, you step into a world of possibilities.

Paintings, sketches, sculptures and other works of art line shelves, sit on tables and are propped along walls. Canvases, clay, wire and art supplies of every kind fill cabinets, drawers and other shelves. It’s a colorful, inspiring room, busy but not cluttered.

This is the home of Art Abilities – where imagination reigns and creative magic happens.

On a recent Tuesday morning, Erick Winburn dipped a brush into pale blue and green paints. He leaned over a sculpture and dabbed the paint onto clay that he and his buddy and fellow artist Billy Bach had pinched and placed to represent water. Driftwood and rocks Winburn had collected sat amid the clay water. Perched on the driftwood was a fisherman he had fashioned out of wire and spray painted.

Finding ways to use diverse materials is one of the reasons Winburn likes the Art Abilities program. “It challenges me,” he said. The wire can be hard to work with, but “it’s worth it in the end.”

His inspiration? “I like to fish, myself, and I just thought it’d look cool to make.”

The 16 artists who work here, all adults with developmental disabilities, are a busy bunch. They paint, sculpt and sketch for the world outside their doorway.

“We have lots of hands going,” instructor Peg Kendall said while showing me around the studio. “We always have the mind-set to have pieces in the community.”

Eric Winburn_Art Abilities
Erick Winburn’s fondness for fishing inspired the work-in-progress he sits beside in the Art Abilities classroom at New Perceptions.

Winburn’s sculpture, for instance, will be on display at the New Perceptions Annual Dinner on Aug. 23 at Receptions in Erlanger. Each artist “has a goal to be in the community themselves,” Kendall said, “so having their work in the community is an extension of that.”

Kendall’s enthusiasm for her students is apparent as she talks about them and their work. “They are the most motivated and creative people,” she said. The program doesn’t follow a curriculum. Instead the artists decide what they’re going to learn. “It comes from the heart,” Kendall said, “and it comes from them.”

With pride Kendall ticks off the community events the artists are preparing for. For the annual dinner, Kendall plans to display 25 to 30 pieces, enough to represent as many of the artists as possible. Currently eight pieces from the studio are entered in a show at Art Beyond Boundaries, a gallery on Main Street in Cincinnati that showcases and sells the works of local and regional artists with disabilities. On Aug. 5, that show will end and a new show will begin with, Kendall hopes, seven or eight pieces from her studio.

“They are the most motivated and creative people.”

The artists also will show their works at Art in the Park in Bellevue on Sept. 10. At Art on the Levee in Newport, visitors can find wire sculptures, similar to Winburn’s fisherman, for sale throughout the year.

Wire sculpture is a favorite among the artists, Kendall said. The studio started producing the sculptures about five years ago after researching and finding that no one else in the area was creating them, she said. The sculptures require fencing wire, rebar wire or “whatever we can lay our hands on.”

The artists, sometimes collaborating on the same sculpture, twist the wire into figures – a wire ball for the head and wire columns for the trunk, arms and legs – and then give them a job to do. Three wire figures, for example, appear to be rappelling on the wall outside the Art Abilities door.

pottery wheel
Tim Adams creates a piece at the pottery wheel.

In addition to paintings and sketches, program participants also work on tile mosaics, ceramics and engravings in glass and wood. Thanks to a recent grant from the Elsa Heisel Sule Foundation, the studio has added a pottery wheel and airbrushing equipment.

“We very much try to cater to their interests, even if it’s Pittsburgh Steelers junk,” Kendall said loud enough to get a reaction from Winburn and Bach, both fans of that other football team from that other city.

It’s all good-natured ribbing. A sense of camaraderie spreads easily through the room like paint on canvas.

“I love it,” Bach said when asked his opinion of the art program. He enjoys being in the studio, making friends and “being around that woman right there,” he said, pointing to Kendall.

Billy
Billy Bach recently finished this canvas painting. His next project will be a painting of Batman.

Bach recently finished a collage-type painting, and for his next project, he’ll paint Batman to fulfill a request from a customer. The studio occasionally gets requests for work, which encourages the artists, said Kendall, who is also the assistant manager of The Learning Center at New Perceptions.

When an artist sells work, half of the money goes to the artist and half to the Art Abilities program. Often the artists donate their half back to the program by using it to buy supplies, Kendall said. “They can see the difference they’re making.”

In addition to visual arts, Art Abilities also teaches sign language and music, including drums, piano and guitar. “Art Abilities is an all-day party,” Kendall said.

After visiting this all-day party, images of the artwork and the people have stayed with me. For some reason, though, one surprising image keeps coming to mind – the doorway to the Art Abilities room. Maybe it has stayed with me because it seemed so open and welcoming. Maybe I think of it because it stands in contrast to the many closed doors people with disabilities may encounter. The students who walk through this doorway have other doors opened to them – doors to creativity, to relationships with fellow artists, to the larger community. Open doors. Open hearts. Art Abilities.

The Art Abilities program is offered to adults 21 and older with a developmental disability. The potential participants also must have a Medicaid waiver. For more information and program availability, please contact Marlayna Cooney at mcooney@newperceptions.org.

Top photo: A variety of works by Art Abilities students are displayed at the 2015 New Perceptions Annual Dinner.

Photos provided by New Perceptions.

About New Perceptions

I’d heard of the organization for years but wasn’t sure about what it offered. Development Director Emily Prabell broke it down for me with the following brief history and overview:

New Perceptions was founded by a group of concerned parents in 1952 to offer services that were scarce in the community at that time for children with special needs. Thanks to parents who wanted the best for their children, individuals with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities receive opportunities for education, growth and employment in a normalized setting to help each person reach his or her maximum potential.

Our Children Services program offers home-based and on-campus specialized therapeutic intervention – occupational, physical, and/or speech – for a variety of developmental needs. An eight-week summer program, Bridging the Gap, offers unique small-group therapy with a focus on sensory movement, social communication and therapeutic school-readiness.

Services for adults include Supported Employment, The Work Center and The Learning Center. Supported Employment offers in-depth, one-on-one support from employment specialists. Participants learn job skills, how to get a job, and techniques to cooperate with coworkers and supervisors to best succeed on the job.

The Work Center provides employment at the New Perceptions campus in parts assembly, kit assembly, collating, bagging, labeling, rework and packaging jobs for small items. Participants learn diverse work skills and increase independent functioning skills.

The Learning Center, new in January 2015, offers adult participants educational opportunities in three supportive settings. The Adult Learning Classroom offers structured learning in topics such as comprehensive reading, life skills reading, life skills math, cooking, health and current events. Adult Day is a relaxed setting for individuals who need greater one-on-one support in learning life skills. Activities are planned and led by staff throughout the day. Art Abilities is open to students who want to learn skills and/or express themselves through art such as sketching, water color, wire design, guitar, piano and sign language.

For more information about New Perceptions, visit its website at www.newperceptions.org. You can also learn the latest on its Facebook page.