By Christine Bryant
The beloved historic Hilltop Bean Dinner Festival will once again return this year to Westgate Park.
The popular Westside event will take place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday, June 24 at Westgate Park, 455 S. Westgate Ave., Columbus.
Applications and registrations for booth spaces, arts and crafts vendors, and the annual car show are now available on the Hilltop Business Association’s website, hilltopbusinessassociation.org.
One of the largest and oldest community festivals held on the Westside of Columbus every year, the Bean Dinner is known for serving guests its “secret recipe beans.” However, guests will also find plenty of other activities, from an antique car show to music and food vendors.
The bean dinner’s roots date back all the way to the Civil War. The area now known as Westgate Park used to be a Civil War prison camp called “Camp Chase.” According to the Hilltop Business Association, the camp was a feared place by Confederate soldiers, who were fed a ration of beans twice a day.
Over the years, the local connection to bean dinners evolved. Veterans from the war would gather for reunions and cook simple food – usually beans and coffee. Politicians running for local offices also looked at bean dinners as a way to meet and greet residents in one location.
Before the 1930s, the Hilltop Businessmen’s Association sponsored yearly picnics at Buckeye Lake, but began looking for a local way to thank their customers for their business. They began hosting bean dinners several times a week, and in the late 1950s and early 1960s, organizers added carnival attractions, drawing visitors from areas outside the Hilltop.
In the early 1970s, however, the Bean Dinner event temporarily paused after unrest, security problems and the decline of businesses on the Hilltop. In 1981, a renewed Hilltop Business Association brought back the Bean Dinner at Franklin Heights High School. It then moved to Westgate Park after organizers sought permission from the Columbus Parks and Recreation Department.