A tradition continues with 115th picnic Clarksville event marked harvest WEST COUNTY -- Clarksville * Highland * Glenelg * Lisbon

June 10, 1993|By Erik Nelson | Erik Nelson,Staff Writer

It's been more than a century since a few west county farmer and their families first hauled water and their best produce to the old St. Louis Church on Ten Oaks Road in Clarksville.

On June 26, that unbroken tradition will continue with the 115th Annual Clarksville Picnic, but this time the farmers will be joined by doctors, lawyers and corporate executives and their families.

There won't be any barnstormers giving rides, as there were in 1929, or dancers doing the jitterbug on an outdoor dance floor, as there were during the 1940s.

But there will be an estimated 5,000 to 6,000 people enjoying Dixieland jazz and country music, eating all the chicken and country ham they can hold, and children romping through the lollipop garden or clamoring to get on the swan ride.

Even the wealthiest of Howard residents might find it difficult to pass up a chance at the picnic raffle's grand prize of $10,000, but they had better act quickly. Only about 200 to 300 of the 3,500 $10 tickets are expected to be left on the day of the picnic, said Margaret Smith, the church's administrator.

Ms. Smith, who was born and raised in western Howard, said she remembers the August picnics when she was a girl.

"It was all farming out here; it was the only thing to go to," she said.

She said she especially enjoyed watching volunteers step up onto the picnic's pavilion dance floor.

"After the cooking was done, the help would start dancing. We would love to watch," she said.

If spectators wanted to join in, they would have to dig for 50 cents to get onto the dance floor.

In recent years, "if they dance, they just dance right there on the grass" in front of the music stage.

Ms. Smith also remembered that the picnics were held in August, "when all the crops came in." This was important to the picnic "because they donated all the food from the gardens," Ms. Smith said.

Now most of the food is bought, but parishioners will contribute crafts and baked goods to sell for the benefit of the church. More unusual items such as bats and balls used by the Orioles or free tanning salon sessions will be sold during a silent auction.

The nine-hour event begins at noon, and will feature the Federal Jazz Commission Dixieland Band from 3 to 5 p.m., Calico Cloggers at 6 p.m. and the Ellicott City-based Jimmy Purdum Country Western Band from 7 to 9 p.m.

Bingo will be held in the St. Louis School auditorium all day, and six $1,000 raffle winners will be drawn throughout the day. At 9 p.m., the winner of the grand prize, $10,000, will be drawn, and the person who sold the winning ticket will be awarded $1,000.

Booths will feature other games, such as the wheel of fortune, for cash or prizes.

The picnic is the church's only event to raise money for the year.

After World War II, the picnic's attendance grew tremendously, with the old Picnic Tent holding crowds of more than 2,000. As the character of the county began to become more white-collar, the event was switched to the last Saturday in June at the new church grounds.

Admission to the picnic is free, but the dinner costs $8 for adults, $3 for children age 12 and under, and free for children age 3 and under.

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