The first General Granbury Birthday Bash


By Melinda Jo Ray

It was a vision hatched in ice cream.  It became one of the signature events of our community.

IT is the Annual General Granbury’s Birthday Celebration that ushers in spring every year on the Historic Granbury Square!  2019 marks the 41st Annual version of this fun and whimsical event!  Visitors will once again flock to meet, eat, compete, and just have a jolly good time presided over by the newly elected BEAN QUEEN and the stalwart image of General Hiram Granbury, the hero of the Civil War from whom our town gets its name!

All this fun is the result of an ice cream fueled meeting of square merchants who met one night back in 1980 to bemoan the lack of springtime events on the square!  It was an early meeting of the downtown merchants association that became known as HGMA (Historic Granbury Merchants Association) and everyone there was feeling the pinch of fewer shoppers in that long stretch between Christmas and the start of the summer tourist season.  Stephanie Jester, Jackie Ellis, Kay Gill, Tom and Nita Hafford, Louise Ratliff, Harley Murray, Hans Gerhardt and Jeaninne Macon were among the group gathered that night at the old Rinky Tinks Ice Cream Parlor.  Brains fueled by various flavors of the place’s signature product – they resolved to come up with something fun – a whimsical event that would draw local folks down to the square. 

So… what could be more fun than a party, they said!  And someone, probably inspired by their surroundings, said how about a Birthday Party- with cake and ice cream!?!?   Everyone liked that idea- but WHOSE birthday.  They wanted to tie it to the town- and it was remembered that General Hiram Granbury was born on March 1st!  – That was EXACTLY the right time of year for what they were planning!  – And so, AN EVENT was born!  We were gonna have a BIRTHDAY PARTY!  A BIG BIRTHDAY PARTY!!!  And so, they began to plan.


Let’s listen in….

The idea of honoring the General led to the idea of a PARADE- yeah, that would draw folks.   And we can have somebody play General Granbury- dress him up in a Confederate uniform and he can be in the parade.  And after the paraded, people can gather on the square!  But just a cake and some ice cream won’t keep them down there long.  We need something to go on all day!!!  Well, maybe if we had some kind of contest….  we could let people judge…. yeah, like a chili cook-off!!!!  Nah, everybody and their dog does chili cook-offs!  We want to be DIFFERENT!   Hmmmm…. Hey, how about BEANS!?!?!  Lots of folks have a special way they make beans!!  Let’s do BEANS!!!  We could have folks cook their beans right here on the square, and people could wander around shop and kind of make a picnic of it on the courthouse lawn, after the parade, and we could maybe have General Granbury wandering around visiting with folks and we could turn it into a celebration of our great town!  Oh, and ya know – to be in the parade and go around with General Granbury- maybe we need a Miss Granbury contest?  Nah, we wanna be DIFFERENT!  We got BEANS…. HEY, HOW ABOUT A BEAN QUEEN?!?!?!?  It has a ring to it!!!  Now to be the BEAN QUEEN- this gal has got to have a sense of humor!!  And how do we pick her?  Hey, let’s pick somebody that is always a good sport about helping us do events on the square.  That way we can thank somebody each year!  Okay!  This is going to be FUN!!!

Yep, according to some folks who were there- that’s pretty much how the conversation went!   And so just a few weeks later…  event chairman Stephanie Jester and team, under the skeptical eye of some community members who thought they had lost their collective minds, banded together and hosted the first ever GENERAL GRANBURY’S BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION on the square! Granbury Mayor Howard Clemmons, who already played Santa on the square at Christmas, agreed to become GENERAL GRANBURY.  The merchants elected JEAN CATE, local good sport extraordinaire, as the first ever BEAN QUEEN!  They presided over the first ever BEAN COOK-OFF!  That first cook-off had TEN contestants!  Four were husbands of square merchants, along with five other locals and Pauline Padgett of Arlington competed for the honors.  All touted secret recipes and special ingredients!  It was rumored that one of the contestant’s secret was a few chunks of armadillo in the pot!  The judges included several locals along with Fort Worth Star-Telegram columnist George Dolan, and Brownwood mortician/prankster Groner Pitts.  The first ever BEAN COOK-OFF WINNER was KATY HILL! 

After the judging the beans were sold and consumed by the citizens who had gathered.  A large red, white and blue, three –tiered cake was hauled out and everybody sang happy birthday to the General.  Cake was served up by the Mayor/General and folks spent the afternoon shopping, picnicking on the courthouse lawn, and visiting.  In a moment of solemnity, a wreath was laid at the General Granbury statue.  Afterwards, a local mystery was solved. Two benches had disappeared from under “the tree of knowledge” by the courthouse.  Turns out, they were being repaired and refurbished for the occasion by Gary Best’s woodworking class at Granbury High School.  

The event was described by the local newspaper as a “big hit”, and the annual tradition was born.  Through the intervening years other whimsical and “different” events have been added- including the OUTHOUSE RACES, and various EATING CONTESTS.  Vendors were brought in to add to the festivities, and the BEAN COOK-OFF was expanded to include RIBS as well.  A citizens’ voting category was added along the way and several years ago festivities boasted both a BEAN KING and BEAN QUEEN, Scott and Viki Young! 

FUN is still the focus of this spring kick-off event on the Historic Granbury Square!  This year is no exception!  The schedule of activities is jam-packed, with 14 competition cookers, 3 huge birthday cakes a big Texas heritage parade, and the many boutiques and specialty shops on the square will be holding special sales and items that weekend as well.  General Granbury’s Birthday Bash is sponsored for its 41st year by the Historic Granbury Merchants Association, the same group whose leaders gathered in that ice cream parlor all those years ago- determined to stir up some SPRING TIME FUN on the GRANBURY SQUARE. 

First Bean Competition and Judging


General Granbury’s First Birthday Cake

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