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Stewing up some fun for McCleary Bear Festival

McCLEARY — Looking for some family fun that’s uniquely ursine?

The 54th annual McCleary Bear Festival — complete with its quintessential bear stew — will fill the streets and parks of the East County town throughout next weekend.

Complete with a softball tournament, custom car show, fun run, food galore and scads of activities for the kids, it’s a great party centered in McCleary’s bucolic Beerbower Park.

The event is a three-day affair, launching Friday afternoon, when food and craft vendors open their booths at 3 p.m. in the park.

There will also be “Bubble Fun” and games for the kids and a presentation by “Reptile Man” Scott Petersen at 6 p.m.

Petersen, from Monroe, has performed for more than 800 schools throughout the Northwest and has appeared on Disney’s nationally televised “Bill Nye — The Science Guy.” His scaly menagerie includes all sorts of large and exotic reptiles, including cobras and monitor lizards.

The annual “Guns & Hoses” softball game between McCleary police and firefighters will be played at the diamond at 6:30 p.m. Friday

Saturday is the big day, especially if you have a hankering for some genuine bear stew.

Admission to the festival is free, but if you want to eat stew you must buy a $2 Bear Festival button. They are available at most McCleary businesses or at the fair information booth in the park Friday night and Saturday.

One hundred 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 and added just before serving. The stew is cooked in enormous iron kettles on stoves in the park kitchen. It takes about 40 people to handle the cooking chores. The menu also calls for a ton of watermelon, 3,000 rolls, and kettles full of baked beans. It is served immediately following the Grand Parade, which always starts at noon on Saturday.

Saturday’s schedule

• Softball tournament, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. (Beerbower Park).

• “Run from the Bears” Fun Run, 9 a.m. — registration at VFW Hall from 8 to 8:45 a.m. This event includes a two-mile fun run/walk and 5- and 10-kilometer runs. There is a $20 entry fee with free T-shirt to the first 75 runners to pre-register.

• Food & craft vendors 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. (Beerbower Park).

• “Rods & Rides” car show, 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. at the Sterling Bank & Paradise Pizza parking lots. Registration is at 8:30 a.m. Cost is $10 per entry.

• City Goat Farm & Petting Zoo, 1 to 5 p.m. (Beerbower Park by playground).

• Bubble Fun, Elite Mobile Video Gaming, 9 a.m.-7 p.m. (Beerbower Park)

• Bouncy houses, noon to 6 p.m. (Beerbower Park)

• Kiddie Parade and 54th annual Grand Parade through town. (The parade route runs ……..

• World Famous Bear Stew, 1 p.m. (Beerbower Park kitchen)

• Music in the park — 338th USARC (country music) 1:30-3:30.p.m.; Sonic Funk Band (’70s & ’80s music) 4:30-8 p.m.

The festival wraps up Sunday. Family Fun Day in the Park begins at noon featuring lots of free games, contests and activities for the kids.

The softball tournament resumes at 8 a.m. with a champion crowned around 3 p.m.

Food and craft vendors will sell their wares from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. with the bounce houses, petting zoo and other games and activities operating until 4 p.m. Music in the park will be provided by the Down Home Country Fiddle & Blue Grass Band from noon to 2 p.m.