LIMA — It’s hard to imagine that, at the relatively vernal age of 15, Beanie would be considered a museum piece, but when it comes to massive, felt-swathed legumes, it’s about the quality of the years, not the numbers.
Beanie, the big green fellow who has been the face and elliptical body of Lima for these past 15 years, will receive an honor Thursday typically reserved for the best and the brightest. He will become a part of the permanent collection at the Allen County Museum.
Officials from the city and museum will be on hand Thursday as Beanie — or, more accurately, the very first Beanie suit — takes its place alongside Easter Straker’s birthday chair, the mechanical Noah’s Ark diorama and a long list of decidedly more notable historic artifacts in the museum space.
“Beanie really is part of Lima’s history now. We wanted the museum to have the first costume so we could sort of honor that place,” said Connie Dershem, the city’s neighborhood specialist.
Beanie came to bein’ in 1995, the brainchild of then-neighborhood specialist Christine Rodabaugh. The idea was to find a way to attract attention to neighborhood programs and promote the city’s neighborhood associations. The lime-toned legume attracted plenty of attention, scoring national media stories that included mentions on CNN and National Public Radio, not to mention radio interviews by Rodabaugh and others (Beanie, being mute and all, is notoriously bad on the radio) as far away as Seattle.
More importantly, Beanie has made hundreds of appearances at local meetings, festivals and parades, including plenty of classroom visits during which he and his ever-present Beanie Buddy shared the importance of being a good neighbor.
“He spent a lot of years going to every second-grade class in the city,” Dershem said.
The costume to be donated to the museum has been replaced by two new suits. The new Beanie looks exactly like the old one on the outside, but a new skeleton of lightweight PVC piping takes the place of the former’s wood innards. The suits are made by Olympus Flag and Banner of Wisconsin, the same company that makes the Hamburgler, Mayor McCheese and other McDonald’s costumed characters.
Rodabaugh will be honored for her contribution to Beanie-dom during Thursday’s ceremony, along with Jerry Lewis, owner of a number of local McDonald’s restaurants, who contributed the $2,500 to buy the first suit. The two new suits costs $2,650 each and were funded with Weed and Seed grant money.
The museum honors is by no means a signs that Beanie is a has-bean, Dershem said. There are currently about 12 volunteers lined up to appear as Beanie or a buddy. The city’s Community Assets and Resources Education Academy has been a consistent source for new volunteers and other groups have expressed an interest in helping keep Beanie out and about. She is in the midst of coordinating the next round of Beanie training.
“I know the Lima Young Professionals wants to get Beanie involved in the I Love Lima campaign. There’s a lot of call for him out there, so he’ll be making a lot of public appearances in the future,” Dershem said.
Beanie history, but no has-Bean