Beef Days beeristory
The first Solon Beef Days I attended was in the early 1980s.
Back then, the entire city was an open container zone during the celebration. People came and went from the beer tent and the half dozen taverns in town with cup in hand. Individuals also hauled in their own coolers bringing in more beer and liquor. People around town, myself included, scheduled family reunions and parties to coincide with the festival and often tapped a keg or two.
The beer tent alone sold nearly 200 kegs over the weekend. Besides being able to purchase a single cup, the thirsty could get a bucket of beer in a plastic pail complete with handle and lid, making it easy to transport a gallon of beer or more. The lids could be removed and thrown like Frisbees, and Main Street looked like an open popcorn kettle as the discs flew into the air. All good fun until someone got hit in the head and then a fight would break out. On one occasion I watched a man drinking from a glass bottle of whisky get caught up in the act. After running out of lids to throw he tossed his bottle into the air. Miraculously no one got hurt.
It was custom at first to let the volunteers running the beer tent have a beer or two on the house while they worked. That practice gradually grew to all you could drink while on duty to all you could drink for the weekend to all you and your friends and family could drink. At one meeting of the committee I attended it was reported that more beer had been given away then sold.
Because everything was so wide open it wasn’t unusual to see young teenagers getting blitzed and old drunks passed out about town. The event was especially popular with college kids from Iowa City, and they arrived by the busload. Motorcycle clubs (gangs?) from far and wide also roared into town. The crowd around the bandstand reached to the thousands.
From my upstairs apartment on Main Street– ground zero for Beef Days– I watched it all unfold and participated in more than a little of it. Yes, I drank too much. One year I left the front window open and woke up to find the apartment floor covered with the plastic lids. Another year my middle daughter accidentally tipped a beer bottle sitting on our window and sent it crashing to the street below. I arrived home the same time as the police to find her hiding under her bed in terror.
Then around the mid-1980s, a local woman wrote a letter published in the Solon Economist taking organizers of the event to task. She noted that the people were getting so drunk that a sport was developing in her neighborhood betting which way they’d fall. She also pointed out that the alcohol was lowering inhibitions and the result was uncontrolled “intercourse at the interpass.”
The Beef Days Committee listened and gradually measures were taken to make the event more family friendly. There was some push back by people who didn’t want any change. A T-shirt was printed that said, “We don’t have a drinking problem at Beef Days– We Drink– We Get Drunk– We Fall Down– No Problem. Nevertheless, a designated drinking area was established, open containers curtailed and family friendly events like the kiddy tractor pull added.
Since moving away from Solon in 2000 I haven’t made it back to many Beef Days. I wasn’t avoiding it; it just worked out that way. Last week, however, Sabra and I paid a visit on Friday night. We had a beautiful evening. The hay bale toss is classic Americana. The beer– while not flowing like a broken water main– was cold and refreshing. I bought tickets for us to have a couple of brews each but I never got to use them: old friends bought them instead. That was it. We came, had a great time while drinking a couple beers and went home. I guess I’ve matured along with the event.
I do have a couple of questions/complaints: What do I do with the tickets? And, what happened to the interpass?