Beans, Music, & Outhouses

Festival goers on the courthouse lawn
watching a band.
Autumn chill in the air means it's about time for the almost world famous Bean Fest & Championship Outhouse Races! The last weekend of every October, Mountain View, Arkansas steals the title of "The Windy City" from Chicago as the population of this pretty little town nestled in the Ozark Mountains swells from 2,900 happy souls to over 50,000.

The festival celebrates pinto beans in a big way. Since the bean is a musical fruit, the festival starts with music concerts on Thursday and Friday with folk, bluegrass, Cajun, Ozark Mountain blues, and gospel as the main styles of music. Bands and individual performers take the main stage in front of the court house, but other musicians come from all around the state and many from out of state, unlimber their guitar, mandolin, fiddle, bass and spoons, meet up around the town square, in front of the local music store, at the Old Grey Hippie Corner, or in Washington Street Park and join together in always changing, impromptu groups to play and sing the whole 4-day weekend.

These are the groups I gravitate toward. A lot of these folk are getting on up there in years, dress in overalls and don't always have the newest instruments, but they can play as good or better than most professionals. Looking at some of them, I can't help but hear the theme to Deliverance in my head, but I doggies folks, those hillbillies can flat play their instruments!
Of course, any bean festival worth its salt has to have a "Beanie Weenie Dog Show." All dogs are welcome from the most pure pedigrees to the Heinz 57 pets. Some of the costumes are simply amazing and some are just simple, but a good time is always had by all.

Early Saturday morning, registered teams start cooking them beans to compete in the pinto bean cook-off. This year there were 36 bean teams competing with each group using their own secret blend of herbs and spices trying to win the title of Best Bean. Most teams have their own costumes and team name and many of them have been coming here to compete for years and years. The beans are cooked in large, old-fashioned cast-iron pots big enough that the beans have to be stirred by using large wooden oars. While the beans are simmering, many of the teams put on little shows or just meet and greet with the festival goers.

By mid-morning, the aroma from the beans cooking fills the air and your belly gets hungrier and hungrier as you amble around the Artisans Market On The Square, looking and purchasing handmade goods from local and regional crafters. About 11:30, when the beans are done, the judges, hidden away inside the courthouse, are served with samplings from each team. At noon, the judges emerge from hiding and announce the winners and the grand champion Best Bean. Soon, the dinner bell rings and everyone is served cups of beans and slices of cornbread. There was enough for everyone to have one or two cups this year before all 1,800 pounds of beans were gone. I had a cup from one of my favorite teams, the Jail Birds, and managed to score a 2nd cup from the 2nd place team, the L.A. Honey Bees (We put the sting in beans!) with peppers and onions to mix in. Yummy!

The Nerd Bean Masters team.
The Jail-Bird team preparing to serve.

Nothing follows a large meal of beans better than an outhouse, so after lunch, the Championship Outhouse Race gets underway, beginning with the Parade of Outhouses. Two contestants push each outhouse-on-wheels with one person sitting on the throne and steering. These are not real outhouses; more like people-powered-potties. Think about designing a vehicle, let your imagination go in the toilet, and you'll fit right in. Competition is up a paved, slight incline with teams competing head to head until the fastest "outhouse" has been determined. Second and third place wins silver and bronze toilet seats. The winner receives bragging rights for the year and the revered and coveted Gold Toilet Seat to proudly display.

There's a reason these guys are the champs
multiple times - they've "bean" at it for years!
Them's some good beans!
One bit of warning, there are not that many lodging places in Mountain View so rooms, especially the charming Bed and Breakfast homes around the square, are booked a year or more in advance. It's a great weekend full of fun, but if you decide to go at the last minute, plan to find a place to stay 30 minutes to an hour away. Parking is relatively plentiful; just follow the crowds once you get into town. And start lining up to get them beans from your favorite bean cooking team by about 11:30. You wouldn't want to be next in line when that last cup of beans gets handed out!

Outhouse racers lined up before the parade.

Guitar racer. Guitar pick top is a nice touch.
The Methane Machine - complete with roll
of toilet paper.

The "Silent Butt Deadly Racing" team's entry.
The local high school 's Strato-Gasser entry.

Even the senior citizen center get's involved with
they're "Old Farts Linger Here" entry.

And they're off!