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Turlocks Fava Bean Day endures from lie to fundraiser
fava bean pic1
More than 60 volunteers shell mounds of fava bean pods in preparation for a previous Fava Bean Day benefit dinner. - photo by Journal file photo

A bowl of fava beans may not be a favorite dish for many people, but come Monday it will be the meal of choice for more than a thousand.

Monday is Fava Bean Day and Turlock likes to celebrate it with a dinner  that serves up simmering bowls of linguica, garlic, onions, and of course fava beans, all while raising money for children with cancer.

But it is one big lie. Not the part about the dinner or helping children with cancer. The lie is that it is Fava Bean Day, because in reality there is no official Fava Bean Day, either nationally or internationally.

At the head of this lie is Turlock resident Joe Fagundes, who has turned his penchant for pulling someone’s leg into a grassroots charity effort that is now in its 23rd year and has raised more than $300,000 for local children battling cancer.

Back in 1993, Fagundes was sautéing up a batch of beans at his ranch shop and on a whim told his workers and a friend that May 9 was Fava Bean Day in Portugal. He told them how everyone in Portugal celebrated the day by cooking up a big pot of the legumes and spending time with all their friends and family eating bowlful after bowlful.

“I really laid it on thick,” Fagundes recounted.

The workers and his friend ate it up. Literally. And when May 9 rolled around the following year, Fagundes was delighted to see that his joke was still living when his friend asked if he was planning to cook up another batch of fava beans.

“Now, when you tell a lie, you don’t remember it, so I asked him what he was talking about,” Fagundes said. “It was then that he knew he had fallen for another joke.”

Even with his joke uncovered, Fagundes decided to host a fava bean dinner and it drew in a sizeable crowd of friends and family.

“Someone suggested we could do this yearly as a political fundraiser, but I thought if we are going to do this, let’s help some kids with cancer,” Fagundes said.

Twenty-three years later the annual Fava Bean Day celebration is going strong. More than a thousand people are expected to come out to the Stanislaus County fairgrounds and happily hand over a donation for a bowl of food that doesn’t exactly whet the appetite of the masses.

“I know there are some that don’t like it at all, but still come out because Fava Bean Day isn’t really about the food,” Fagundes said. “It’s about helping those kids.

“When people walk into the hall they just feel the love,” Fagundes continued. “This is a grassroots type of fundraiser with good old folks trying to help someone  and it’s all being done from the heart.”

This year the recipients of the funds collected from the dinner and the live and silent auctions will be 2-year-old Michelle from Turlock and 10-year-old Ibarra from Gustine. Michelle has been diagnosed with lymphoblastic leukemia and is undergoing chemotherapy at Valley Children’s Hospital in Madera. Ibarra was diagnosed last year with acute lymphoblastic leukemia and also is receiving chemotherapy at Valley Children’s Hospital in Madera.

The Fava Bean Day celebration starts at 5:30 p.m. Monday at the Stanislaus County Fairgrounds in Building E-2. There is no cost for admission, though donations will gladly be accepted. There will be a live and silent auction of various donated items and a silent auction for homemade desserts.