Bear stew and family activities highlight a weekend of events at the McCleary Bear Festival

Bear stew will be on the menu this weekend during the McCleary Bear Festival.

Started in 1959, the annual event runs from Friday to Sunday with events throughout the town.

The highlight of the event since it’s inception has been the bear stew available.

In some prior years, access to bear meat was limited, meaning the festival stew featured other meats. The key ingredient returned, and the 64th annual McCleary Bear Festival will feature the namesake ingredient at the meal.

Organized by volunteers, the community festival will feature a parade, family activities, live music, softball tournament, car show, soap box derby, and of course the bear stew.

Volunteers are welcome to join in on community bear stew vegetable preparation starting Friday, July 7, 2023 at 7:00am at the park kitchen area.  

All are welcome to join, and you are asked to just bring a cutting board and peeler.

Bear meat is obtained through the Fish and Wildlife Department, where hunters apply and receive permits for the nuisance wildlife program that require specific State mandated regulations to be followed.

100+ pounds of meat go into the stew, with a small portion of that being beef if there is a lack of bear meat that season.  

In addition to the bear, the stew also features hundreds of pounds of potatoes, carrots, onions and the “special” spicy sauce cooked in enormous iron kettles on stoves in the City Park kitchen by volunteer firefighters.  

“This is one case where too many chefs don’t spoil the stew, for it takes about 40 people to handle the cooking chores; McCleary Fire Department taking ’round the clock shifts watching and stirring and adding the right ingredients at the right time to make the stew just right.  “

According to the festival, the menu also features watermelon, 3,000 rolls, and baked beans served immediately following the Grand Parade, which always starts at 12:00 noon on Saturday.