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Over 100 pounds of meat go into the stew...
with a small portion of that being beef for flavoring
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The History of the Bear Festival
The McCleary Bear Festival was dreamed up in 1958 by Norman Porter, then editor of the McCleary Stimulator, the home town newspaper. It wasn't that he disliked bears, but he and other residents of this area knew that bears liked to eat the soft cambium layer of the inner bark of young evergreen trees. They especially crave this delicacy when they emerge from hibernation, and to satisfy their hunger they often strip a tree of all its bark, causing it to die. It started with a remark by a friend of Porter's by the name of Roy Craft, then editor of the Skamania County Pioneer in Stevenson, Washington, who claimed that Skamania bears, if properly cooked, were the world's most delicious. Porter countered with the claim that Grays Harbor's bears were the tops. The two agreed to meet head-on in a bear-tasting contest in McCleary. Civic minded McClearians got interested, formed committees and decided to stage something more than just a bear-eating contest. Working with Porter, they created the First Annual Second Growth and Bear Festival. It not only helped to rid the forests of unwanted surplus bears, but also supplied the Festival with bear for the barbecue.
In 1966, fifteen bears went into the communal pot. Now selected portions of inspected bear meat is combined with beef to provide the distinctive flavor associated with McCleary Bear Stew. McCleary is a slumbering little lumber town 30 minutes west of the Capitol City, Olympia, and depends greatly upon the forests surrounding it in Grays Harbor County for survival. The Simpson Timber Company always replants harvested land for future use of the timber industry, as do all other timber companies in the Northwest. It is these young trees that bears find so tasty and damage readily each spring. By the ninth annual Bear Festival, 4,000 visitors were gathered in McCleary. The cooking crew by then had grown to several local sportsmen who started two days ahead of time to make sure the bear stew was ready on time. Now we host upwards of 10,000 people from all over the United States and Canada who have heard one way or another about the big three-day celebration on the second full weekend of July each year.
100+ pounds of meat go into the stew with a small portion of that being beef for flavoring. There are also hundreds of pounds of potatoes, carrots, onions and a large kettle of "special" spicy sauce cooked just right with seasonings that are added just before serving. The stew is cooked in enormous iron kettles on stoves in the City Park kitchen. This is one case where too many chefs don't spoil the stew, for it takes about 40 people to handle the cooking chores; taking 'round the clock shifts watching and stirring and adding the right ingredients at the right time to make the stew just right. The menu also calls for a ton of watermelon, 3,000 rolls, and baked beans by the kettles full. It is served immediately following the Grand Parade which always starts at 12:00 noon on Saturday.
Although the Bear Stew is the big attraction to the festival, there is also a Kiddies Parade, Grand Parade, Royal Court Ceremony, Bands, Dances, Softball Tournament, and many other events in all three days.
2014 Sponsor List
Papa Bear Sponsors
Mama Bear Sponsors
Meet the 2014 Royal Court
Princess Elizabeth D
Elizabeth, 13, is the daughter of Doug and Julie. She has a twin brother Payton. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her friends and family. Currently attending McCleary Elementary she is actively involved in Rachel's Challenge, ASB, and the National Honor Society. Elizabeth also plays girls volleyball and basketball. This will be her second year playing in the EGHSA Elma girl's fast pitch league. Outside of school she is a member of the cycling team "BIG DIEHL"; which raises money to find a cure for MS. This past year she volunteered in her 6th Annual Bike MS, located in Mount Vernon, Washington. Bike MS is a series of 100 extraordinary cycling events across the county and is the premier fundraising cycling series in the nation. She is currently a member of the McCleary United Methodist Church and youth group. After graduation Elma High School, Elizabeth plans to enlist in the NAVY in hopes of one day becoming a school counselor.
Princess Ashley H
Ashley is 14 years old and in the 8th grade at McCleary Middle School and loves spending time with her family, friends and animals. Ashley loves being outdoors and is a natural athlete and enjoys playing volleyball, fast pitch and sometimes soccer. She also has a passion for animals and loves to be around horses and currently is a volunteer with Hope from Horses 4-H. Ashley is looking forward to the rewarding and fun experience serving as a McCleary Bear Festival Princess.
Princess Rikki B
Rikki is 14 and in the 8th grade. She has attended McCleary Elementary School since pre-school. She enjoys playing volleyball, basketball, track, and fast pitch and has done these for the last three years. Rikki is also the vice president of the "We Challenge" club at the school, it helps stand up to bullying. Rikki loves spending her extra time fishing, hunting, and camping. She loves to be around friends and family and loves to make people smile and laugh. She is excited to run as one of the Bear Festival Princesses, and her Aunt, Mom, and Cousin have ran in past years. Rikki is ready for having fun and a great experience as one of the Bear Festival Princesses.
Get in touch
Need info, want to become a sponsor, just want to say hello... we welcome your feedback!
- Address: PO Box 408, McCleary WA 98557
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Phone: 360-495-3667 ext. 8 option 1
Meet the Committee
- Teresa Nunez - Chair
- Aimee Rowland - Co Chair
- Valerie Piper - Treasurer
- Amanda Fredrickson - Secretary
- Susan Carroll - Trustee
- Jenna Powers - Trustee
- Cathy Von Yeck - Trustee