The 58th annual McCleary Bear Festival kicked off on Friday, July 7th, and continues through today, Sunday, July 9th.
It featured a Grand Parade on Saturday, complete with 40+ parade entries and a preceding “kiddie parade”. After the parade, a $3.00 button would get you a plate of bear stew.
The locals have been debating for years on whether or not the bear stew was actually made with real bear, but according to Bear Festival organizer Tanya Beavers, this year will be 100% real bear.
“This year’s stew will feature 100 percent bear meat. Some years back, beef was added because of a lack of bear meat – in recent years, however, the meat has been 100 percent bear. It usually comes from the Fish and Wildlife Department,” Beavers told the Vidette. “Hunters get permits for nuisance bears, and that’s usually where the bear meat comes from.”
Each year, the festival draws a large crowd to the city. This year is expected to be no different.
“We expect several thousand over the weekend, but I really have no idea of how many,” Beavers said. “Last year, the girls (of the Bear Festival Court) sold about 2,000 buttons, and we sold more at the park. We probably sold close to 3,000 buttons last year.” said Beavers.
This year, the festival will feature more activities for children, including a bounce house in the park, pony rides and a petting zoo. The bounce house will be available all weekend, the pony rides will be available on Saturday and the petting zoo on Sunday. Children can buy a bracelet for $10 that allows them access to any of the kids features all weekend.
Past Bear Festivals have featured a car show, but the 2016 event did not. This year, organizers are hoping to ease a car show back into the festivities with a car meet on Sunday.
“It’s not a car show where they have to register. It’ll be a roped off area where people can park their classic cars and people can look at them,” Beavers said. “We didn’t have a car show last year — we weren’t able to pull it off.”
In keeping with the theme, a free tea party will be held at Beerbower Park 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday. At the park will also be some 40 vendor booths (up from 25 booths in 2016).
Overall, Beavers encourages the community to come out for a weekend of entertainment.
“It’s a great opportunity to experience our community,” she said. “The bear stew is really popular. There’s going to be a lot of entertainment this year, so it’s a great time to bring your family and have lots of fun.”
For more information and a full schedule, visit the bear festival website, mcclearybearfestival.org.