RIO GRANDE — For the first time in 150 years, the Rio Grande Memorial Association is canceling its annual Rio Grande Bean Dinner but is looking to host the event again in 2021.
“Caution and safety require us to consider the people of Gallia County, the residents of the Village of Rio Grande, The University of Rio Grande and Rio Grande Community College’s administration, faculty, staff, student body and the bean dinner attendees,” Rio Grande mayor Matt Easter and Rio Grande Memorial Association member David Smalley said in a letter issued to the public. “We feel we cannot provide the equipment, technology or manpower to monitor a closely congregated crowd of people to safely satisfy the CDC guidelines.”
Bean dinners are an American tradition dating back to the Civil War.
“Communities would hold annual bean dinners to celebrate the returning veterans,” Smalley said. “And it’s been happening a hundred fifty years in Rio Grande.”
Organizers had intended for the event to be special to commemorate the anniversary, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic and public health concerns, these plans are put on hold.
Earlier this month, as reported by the Gallipolis Daily Tribune, the Gallia Health Department, via its Facebook page, stated Gallia has six confirmed COVID-19 cases, with three probable for a total of nine cases. The Ohio Department of Health’s COVID-19 dashboard confirmed the Gallia total case numbers as current as of Tuesday afternoon. Of these nine Gallia cases, there’s been one death and, as it was also reported earlier this month via the health department’s Facebook page, one current hospitalization, one home isolation and six recovered.
Also on Tuesday, ODH reported 46,127 total COVID-19 cases in the state, with 7,379 total hospitalizations and 2,735 total deaths across Ohio.
“We wanted this to be a big one—just the best that we possibly could,” Smalley said. “But we will do this next August, summer of 2021. We wanted to have a skirmish, with reenactors, with Confederate and Union Army soldiers, actually fire period muskets. We wanted to have two time-period cannons.”
“We cannot see into the future but are very well of the impact of the viral past,” the letter by Easter and Smalley said. “We pledge to do all in our thoughts and actions to make the 150th Rio Grande Bean Dinner the wonderful event it should be without the fears of the virus and the spread of the disease.”
Smalley is confident that the rescheduled event will be an excellent commemoration, in part because of its sponsorship. According to Smalley, sponsors Ohio Valley Bank, University of Rio Grande and Rio Grande Community College, Willis Funeral Home, and Bob’s Market and Greenhouses, Inc. agreed to continue to support the Rio Grande Memorial Association in planning the event next year.
Not everything is canceled, though. The “Bigfoot” Mountain Bike Race will still be held at the Bob Evans Farms trail in Rio Grande. The race, which is usually held before the dinner, is still planned to be held and will also benefit the Rio Grande Memorial Association.
“We give one hundred percent of our budget to the Rio Grande Memorial Association,” Easter said.
Mountain biking is a socially distanced sport and can still be held safely under CDC guidelines.
Beth Sergent contributed to this report in regards to COVID-19 statistics.
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Sharla Moody is a freelance writer for Ohio Valley Publishing from Gallipolis, Ohio. She is a graduate of River Valley High School and currently attends Yale University.