They’re bringing the bear back to McCleary Bear Festival stew

They’re bringing the bear back to the McCleary Bear Festival.

In 2019, the locally-famous bear stew at the festival, for the first time in 60 years, didn’t contain any bear meat, the result of a lawsuit creating a moratorium on bear baiting on timber lands; most of the bear meat the festival used came from bears taken on timber lands. The 2020 festival was canceled because of pandemic concerns.

Bear Festival royalty officially kicked off the annual festival button sales on Friday by presenting the buttons to McCleary Mayor Brenda Orffer and members of the City Council. There, festival committee co-chair Karen Waddington said, “There will be bear in the bear stew this year. It will be all bear.”

She said the bear will be procured and handled in line with all state regulations.

The festival announced its pick for parade grand marshal last week, Charles Fattig. He’s been involved with the McCleary Historical Society since 1985 and is “the keeper of the history of McCleary,” said Waddington, who added Fattig has a collection of all 62 bear festival buttons on display at the city’s museum.

With the cancellation of last year’s festival, the royalty court carried over from 2020: Sr. Queen Koral Young, Jr. Prince Nathan Johnston, Sr. Princess Taryn Ferrier, and Jr. Princess Lola Van Blaricom. On Saturday, they were at Beerbower Park selling buttons at $3 a pop.

The festival will run July 9-11. Waddington and the committee are still putting together entertainment and vendor information at the time. The grand parade will make its way through town at noon Saturday, July 10, after which the lines will grow for the bear stew.

Vendors and entertainment will be in Beerbower Park throughout the weekend. And the McCleary Royals Rumble car show is back this year, with classic rigs parked on Third Street on Sunday, July 11.

For more information on the festival, including updates on scheduled events, visit the festival Facebook page at, or the festival website,