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68th Prime Beef Festival keeps Monmouth on the map

September 16, 2016

Michelle Ravel / The Courier

Another year of Prime Beef Festival fun has come and gone in the blink of an eye. As always, festivalgoers included a mix of people from surrounding communities, Monmouth residents, and numerous college students. With many activities that take place from Wednesday through Saturday and delicious foods and drinks from the carnival, the festival is a highlight of the fall season.

“I would say my favorite part of the festival is the parade because it is fun seeing all the different organizations in town come together. I play with the band, and it’s great to see the people lining the streets and clapping along when we play the fight song,” explains Annie Axup, a junior at Monmouth College.

Festival Activities included the Princess Pageant, parade, demo derby, swine show, beef show, car show, and the carnival. Other activities that people could take part in were a prime beef run, performances on the festival stage (Eternity Road, Monmouth Roseville Glee Club), a prime beef auction, a beer garden with live band (Madd Hoss Jackson), a farmer breakfast, a chicken scramble and calf tagging, a fall festival 5K, and a strongman contest.

Haley Osborn, junior at Monmouth College and Monmouth local reminisced on her love of the festival. “Ever since I was a kid my family would come to town just to watch the parade and go to the fair. I always loved going on the carnival rides with my brother and friends from school. Every year, my uncle would take my cousin and I to the car show on Saturday. When I got into high school, I loved watching my friends compete in the princess pageant. I love attending college in my hometown because I can continue living some of my favorite childhood memories from the festival.”

But why is it called the Prime Beef Festival? Local historian Jeff Rankin helped find the answer to that question. Bob Albert was hired as the executive secretary of the Monmouth business community in May of 1947. Albert’s priority was to put Monmouth on the map.

Albert saw a report saying 23 head of cattle had set an all time weight record at Chicago’s Union Stockyards. The cattle came from a farm in Pattee, near Cameron, and averaged 1,343 pounds each. “Monmouth-area cattlemen had been steadily increasing their production in recent years—from 34,000 in 1940 to 43,000 in 1945.” Warren County adopted the nickname “Prime Beef Center of the World” and Albert decided a festival would be the best way to put Monmouth on the map.

In 1948, the first Prime Beef Festival was held. Three prime beef steers were barbecued on the square over open fire pits; a stark contrast to the festival we know today. Roughly 25,000 festivalgoers arrived to get their own free beef sandwich.

Just five years after the opening debut, the festival had to be moved to Monmouth Park due to federal traffic regulations. The home of the festival, the old Public Square, was located at the intersection of U.S. 67 and 34. During that time, the Friday of the festival was assigned as “College Day.” A musical performance directed by music professor Gracie Peterson, was the highlight of the evening.

Miranda Jones
Co-Editor in Chief

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