120th Clarksville Picnic carries on a 'grand tradition' Saturday

NEIGHBORS

June 25, 1998|By Geri Hastings | Geri Hastings,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

ST. LOUIS parishioners, friends and committee members are praying for nice weather Saturday.

Rain or shine, however, the 120th annual Clarksville Picnic will be held from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the church on Route 108, just west of Route 32.

Carol Baker, dinner co-chairman, reports that country ham and fried chicken will be served family style.

The menu includes "the world's best potato salad," she said, as well as apple sauce -- homemade by the Thompson family of Clarksville -- cucumbers, beets, succotash, rolls, iced tea and orange drinks.

The "all-you-can-eat" dinners will be available from noon to 7 p.m.

Admission to the picnic is free. Dinners for adults cost $9; dinners for children ages 5 to 12 are $4. Children younger than 5 eat for free.

The meals are only the beginning. More than 25 booths with children's games and rides, games of chance and food are planned.

You can make a bid at the silent auction on more than 75 items -- including an autographed Cal Ripken Jr. baseball card, an autographed picture of Oriole Harold Baines, a Super Nintendo set with 35 games, a set of golf clubs and off-season weekend accommodations in Ocean City.

You can buy hand-crafted items, find a neglected treasure at the white elephant stand or purchase used books, magazines, tapes and records.

If you don't have time for a sit- down dinner, food will be available to take out.

The St. Louis Picnic Directory calls the picnic "perhaps the oldest of its kind in the state," attributing its popularity to "the enthusiasm of the people -- both parishioners and friends -- who still find it a great gathering time for pleasure, hard work and pride in seeing a grand tradition continue."

The first Clarksville Picnic dates from 1878, during the administration of President Rutherford B. Hayes, 13 years after the end of the Civil War.

The picnic was held on the grounds of the original St. Louis Roman Catholic Church on Ten Oaks Road, between Dayton and Clarksville. Later, a pavilion was constructed for preparation of food and evening dancing.

Water for cooking and drinking had to be brought to the site.

For many years, the picnic was scheduled on the first Wednesday in August, which fell between planting and harvest time -- a perfect time for a celebration in a primarily agrarian community. The picnic was held on a Wednesday to leave weekends free for church and other family activities.

After World War II, larger and larger crowds of picnic-goers attended. Some years, more than 2,000 dinners were served, and the logistical difficulties of the Ten Oaks Road site became evident.

In 1959, the Rev. Myles McGowan changed the picnic's location to its present downtown Clarksville site. And he changed the day to Saturday, to accommodate nonfarm people.

In 1969, Monsignor Anthony Sauerwein chose June for the picnic, rather than the hot, often rainy, August.

He moved the date to the last Saturday in June to allow parishioners to attend before leaving on summer vacations.

Now, co-chairman Rick Baker, in charge of food and a volunteer staff of nearly 500, expects to serve more than 3,500 dinners Saturday and an additional 500 to 700 carry-out meals.

While the volunteers are preparing and serving the dinners -- the focal point of the picnic -- another 500 volunteers will already have prepared the grounds, assembled the booths, created the hand-crafted items and sold raffle tickets.

On Saturday, the volunteers will man booths, assist with parking and lead the clean-up.

Pat Marlatt, general chairman calls the Clarksville Picnic "truly a community-wide event that is beyond the parish and includes everyone."

Park dedication

The Howard County Department of Recreation and Parks will dedicate Warfield's Pond Community Park at 10: 30 a.m. Saturday.

The 20-acre park on MacClintock Drive, off Route 97 in Warfield ** Estates, Glenwood, contains a memorial to Christopher Kelly, the Glenwood youth who died in an accident with a car while riding his bicycle near the site.

Christopher's friends and neighbors say that he would have loved the rocks and the natural beauty of the park.

Chris' death was the catalyst for a law making helmets mandatory for bicycle riders younger than 16 -- in the county and eventually the state.

Warfield's Pond Community Park features a 5-acre pond, complete with wetland boardwalks, a fishing pier and a small shelter overlooking the water.

The pond has been drained and reconstructed. Sediment was removed, the pond regraded and the dam improved.

The spring- and stream-fed pond was stocked with fish by the Department of Natural Resources.

The park also contains two tennis courts, a basketball court, a playground, a picnic pavilion and a pathway system.

There is parking but no restroom facilities.

At Saturday's ceremony, the Warfield Estates Community Association, led by President Bob Buckler, will officially "adopt" the park under the county's Adopt-A-Park program.

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