Thompson: Bear Festival will be packed with fun

Annual event returns this weekend to McCleary. It is the 60th festival.

The 60th McCleary Bear Festival is July 12-14.

Many events are planned.

The theme of this year’s festival is Blast from The Past. The festival is 60 years old and is paying tribute to the longevity the fun weekend.

The Bear Festival Committee asked the school children of McCleary to draw a bear for this year’s button. Twelve students submitted drawings. Two were home-schooled students and the others were from McCleary. The winner of the contest is seventh-grader David Hooper. His drawing will live on forever on the button of the 60th Bear Festival Celebration. Thank you, David, and thank you to all the young people who participated. Their work is on display in the Simpson Room at the Timberland Regional Library in McCleary. During the Bear Festival they will be on display in the window of city Hall.

The McCleary Museum is happy to display its complete set of buttons from the Bear Festival (or Second Growth Festival, as it was originally called). Stop by the the museum to see it and many other McCleary-area relics at 314 S. Second St. Check the hours at

What is a festival without royalty? This year the contest for queen and/or king was opened to juniors. Our current queen, Emma Peters, is 15. This year’s participants range in age from 10 to 13. Coronation of the new queen will be on Friday evening at 5. There will be two queens this year, a junior and a senior.

Here is the timetable of events of the 60th McCleary Bear Festival as I know them, as reported to me by Karen Waddington, the co-chair of the Bear Festival. More than 50 vendors are expected this weekend with 10 food trucks (yes, elephant ears, crepes, mini-donuts, hot dogs). The vendors and food carts will be open all weekend.

T-shirts and sweatshirts to commemorate the Blast from the Past will be available, as will the McCleary T-shirts. Not just T-shirts, but you can get sweatshirts and tank tops with the McCleary logo on them.

And as an added bonus, the McCleary Clinic will be having a health fair in their parking lot on Saturday after the parade.


1 p.m.: Kids Zone — Bracelets will be on sale for all day use, or all weekend use.

1:30: Pacific Science Center Planetarium will be here at the VFW Hall. Seating is limited.

5: Coronation and recognition of past royalty. If you are past royalty and haven’t been contacted by the Bear Festival Committee — contact them. They want to hear from you. There will be a special reception for past royalty following the coronation.

6:30: Fast pitch softball in the park (12 teams competing)

8: Street dance by the park


8 a.m.: Registration for Fun Run

9: Fun Run starts. There’s a 2-mile run/walk, and a 10k run.

11:45: Kiddie parade

Noon: Grand Parade — The parade route is the same. It starts in the Simpson Mill parking lot, runs east down Simpson Avenue, turns right at Third Street, right at Maple, and down to Sixth to return to the parking lot.

1 p.m.: Hot delicious Bear Festival Stew at the park kitchen

1 p.m.: Elma Youth Cheer

1 p.m.: Silent Auction at the VFW, benefit McCleary Museum

1:30: The Fabulous Murphtones (90 minutes) Beerbower Park Stage

3:15: Elma Basketball Cheer

3:30: High Impact Dance School

5: The Olson Band at Beerbower Park Stage (originally from Olympia via Nashville)

5: The VFW will have a beer garden and a petting zoo. Kid Zone will be busy, as well with a bounce house and an obstacle course, hamster balls and more.


10 a.m. to 2 p.m.: Big car show in the Simpson parking lot (100 or more cars)

Noon: Monica Drake and Duane Brady

Noon: Kynan Shane

Noon: McCleary Museum open with complimentary refreshments while they last

2: Humor and Heart


The Grand Parade will have co-Grand Marshalls this year: Joe Wallman was one of four men who shot a bear for the first Bear Festival in 1959 will celebrate our 60-year accomplishment. Edith Soller has been a McClearyite for 80 years. Her contribution to the betterment of McCleary is immeasurable. She has always had an open heart as well as an open house to friends, neighbors, relatives and strangers. To know her is to love her.

MC of the Grand Parade is Ty Flint of Mixx-96 radio out of Olympia. Be sure to listen to this station as he is plugging the festival as much as he can.

The Mayor, Brenda Orffer, will be a proud part of the Grand Parade.

The parade route is the same. It starts in the Simpson Mill parking lot, runs east down Simpson Avenue, turns right at Third Street, right at Maple, and down to Sixth to return to the parking lot.

There will be one car from each decade the festival has been in existence for you to enjoy. Of course, our royalty will be on their award-winning float. This float won the Grand Sweepstakes award in the Mason County Forest Festival, the first parade they were in this year. Wait until you see it!

Past royalty will be waving and enjoying reliving their past, our past.

This story has been corrected for the date of the event.