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Campus continues bean soup tradition

October 16, 2019

At the 2019 UW-River Falls Homecoming, Greek Life hosted an event for students, staff, and community members. Taking place on Oct. 14, the event was located in the Ballroom inside of the University Center. Bean Soup was served free of charge.

In the year 1917, bean soup first appeared at a party hosted by Professor JP Jacobson. It was deemed “Jake’s Bean Soup Party.” The meal was free as long as attendees brought their own bowl and utensils.

From 1917 to 1950, the bean soup party continued.  Lindsey Pennel, a student intern at the university archives, explained some of the staple moments of the bean soup story. “Professor JP Jacobson retired in 1950 and after 1951, bean soup stopped. After 1951 the tradition wasn’t the same and has kept coming back and then dying out ever since,” said Pennel.

Changing from a small get- together to a university tradition. The recipe itself even changed hands from Jacobson to Thorvald Thoreson, a retired professor. Thoreson continued the tradition for several years.

While doing research into the history of bean soup, Morgan Paavola, the Interim Head of University Archives, uncovered another piece of the puzzle, “Dining services sent me stuff and then the paddle showed up because it was in dining services. Then working with the students we found out more about Professor Jake and Professor Thoreson. Names kept popping up and then we found more stuff,” said Paavola.

This wooden paddle was used by Thoreson and has the original recipe engraved into the wood. While the original recipe was used at this event, the paddle was displayed along with various timelines, depicting even more twists and turns in the adventures of bean soup.

The history of bean soup doesn’t stop here. “The idea is so simple but wonderful. Let’s have a meal and sit and talk as River Falls people,” said Kelli Fredrickson from student involvement.

To kick-off the newest version of this 100-year-old tradition, Greek Life served the community of River Falls with a bowl of bean soup. At the event students had the opportunity to participate in activities, such as a bean pole where they used beans to vote on different concepts.