Bean Dinner is a Hilltop tradition that dates back to the Civil War

By Christine Bryant

Staff Writer

The beloved tradition that promises gathering as a community over a hearty dish of beans will once again return to Westgate Park this month.

The 2024 Hilltop Bean Dinner will take place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., June 22 at Westgate Park, 455 S. Westgate Ave., Columbus.

The one-day festival will include music, a variety of food including the event’s famous “secret recipe beans,” arts and craft vendors, and a car show.

The bean dinner’s roots date back all the way to the Civil War when the area now known as Westgate Park used to be a Civil War prison camp called Camp Chase. According to the Hilltop Business Association, imprisoned Confederate soldiers were fed a ration of beans twice a day.

Over the years, the local connection to bean dinners has evolved, with war veterans reuniting over beans and coffee, as well as politicians greeting voters at local bean dinner events.

In fact, one of the event’s organizers and volunteers, Mike Shifflet, says this year’s event will include an opportunity to meet candidates running for political office this fall – carrying on the tradition of community engagement that has long been a hallmark of these gatherings.

“State representatives will be there since it’s an election year, so there will be opportunities to that effect on the bean dinner side of the park,” Shifflet said.

A popular draw to the festival itself, the car show portion of the bean dinner welcomes all makes and models of cars, trucks or motorcycles. Registration for the event is same day beginning at 8 a.m. The cost to enter the field is $15. To register, participants must head to the registration table near the trees and DJ. Registration will stop at noon, with judging beginning shortly after.

“The first 100 cars will get dash plaques,” Shifflet said. “We’ll also have 50 trophies that will be awarded for the entrants in the car show – 25 places and 25 best of’s.”

Shifflet says he expects judging and trophy distribution to finish by 3 to 4 p.m. The car show will also include door prizes and a 50/50 drawing. Proceeds from the car show will go toward St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

A new DJ this year will provide music at the car show, while live music will entertain from the festival stage.

“There will be music at both ends of the field,” Shifflet said.

Larry Titus, who is overseeing the entertainment at the bean dinner this year, says visitors can expect a packed day of music.

“We have a couple of great bands that feature West High alumni,” he said.

The day begins with Driving Guitars – former members of the Danger Brothers – performing from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

“The next band is called The Phantoms – former members of Black Leather touch – who will take the stage from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m.,” Titus said. “We were able to provide this talent with no proceeds taken away from the bean dinner thanks to our generous stage sponsors.”

There is no cost to attend the Hilltop Bean Dinner. For more information, go to hilltopusa.org or hilltopbusinessassociation.org. For more information about the car show, contact Shifflet at (614) 966-2703.

 

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