A Hill of Beans
THORNVILLE- The arts and crafts are wonderful, and you've got to love the music. But, frequent visitors to the annual Backwoods Festival know what it's really all aboutfood! Friday, this year's festival was only open an hour or so before its huge rustic food court, complete with hundreds of picnic tables and countless vendors, was almost too full to find a seat.
Arguably, the food court's biggest celebrity is the bean soup stand, complete with huge cauldrons of beans bubbling over open fires.
Bean master John Ruyf said his crew would prepare and sell about six cauldrons full of soup each day, which is roughly 200 gallons. He'll sell 600 gallons through the three-day festival weekend. "We'll run out on Saturday," he predicted.
Ruyf said the bean soup has no secret ingredient. Basically, the soup is made of beans, ham hocks, onions, salt, chili peppers, brown sugar, and black pepper. The real secret ingredient may just be patience. Each cauldron takes five hours to cook. "We start at five in the morning," he said.
Tuesday, festival co-owner Kathy Launder said nearly 25,000 people attended this year's event, which was about the same as last year. "All three days the weather was good and the venders were telling me they were satisfied. It was a real boost to a lot of them," she said. There were no incidents of violence, injury, or illness during the weekend. "The EMS squad just there," said Launder. Once again, she said the bean soup was the main attraction as hungry festival goers lined up for a bowl as soon as the grounds opened at 10 a.m. "They sold all their soup, every day," said Launder.