When it debuted Aug. 22 and 23, 1987, the festival was able to raise $11,862 for local nonprofit groups and attract between 15,000 and 18,000 people.
You could find Portuguese bean soup, Japanese bean candy made from a lima bean paste and bean chips made from black-eye beans, corn and rice.
Tracy Press publisher emeritus Sam Matthews spent hours manning a booth for a bean battle among the Portuguese bean soup, baby lima beans con queso and garbanzos. (The garbanzos ran a solid third.)
Three Tracy residents took the top three spots on the bean cook-off, with the Rainbow Girls No. 32 Assembly passing out cups of beans for people to taste. The Boy Scouts Troop 515, service clubs and even clubs from all the local schools were out either raising money or volunteering for the first Tracy Dry Bean Festival.
The event has lost some of that hometown appeal through the years as vendors from all over the state have flocked to our streets to sell their wares. The Tracy Chamber of Commerce president, Sofia Valenzuela, acknowledges she has had people tell her the festival is now more commercial than in years past. The chamber says it wants to “recapture that and have it feel more like a community festival.”
We support the chamber’s efforts. It’s important the Tracy Dry Bean Festival be a celebration of those things that make Tracy a special place to live and do business. It’s vital to highlight local chefs, growers and artisans. Tracy has a long multicultural history that is worth celebrating every year.
The chamber says it intends to invite school groups back to the festival, to increase the profile of the farmers market and to do a better job marketing to local vendors and craftsmen and women. These are all good ideas to put the “Tracy” back into the Tracy Dry Bean Festival.