Annual picnic attracts nearly 10,000 - people, that is, not ants


June 29, 2000|By Lorraine Gingerich | Lorraine Gingerich,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

PICNIC MIGHT be a misnomer for a Clarksville event that was held from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday. Almost 1,000 volunteers and nearly 10,000 visitors attended the Clarksville Picnic, in its 122nd year.

Besides the all-you-can-eat chicken dinner, the picnic featured carnival activities such as the dunking booth, lollipop garden and face-painting. At the flower stand, hanging baskets could be won if you matched the winning number. With the pony rides, bingo, white elephant sale, book sale and silent auction, adults as well as children could enjoy the event.

St. Louis Church gave away $21,000 in a raffle: 10 $1,000 winners, one $10,000 prize and $1,000 to the seller of the winning ticket. Tickets were $10 each and were sold in pre-sales by parishioners and at the picnic. The winners included John Lazzari of Dayton, Richard Aquino of Woodstock, and Meg and Scott Ortel of Glenwood. Columbia resident Paul Mack won the grand prize.

The church also raffled a handmade quilt made by women of the parish. The winner was Hilda Mathieu of Highland.

Rick Baker of Fulton, the dinner chairman, managed the all-you-can-eat chicken and ham dinners by ordering food and coordinating volunteers. He also helped prepare and serve food. The menu included fried chicken, ham, beets, cucumbers and a secret-recipe succotash.

"We made a couple of little changes to the succotash, but it really made all the difference," Baker said. "The succotash was just right this year, and that's easier said than done.

"If we plan things right, we run out just about the time the line goes down to the dinner table."

All the leftovers were sold in quart containers at the after-picnic sale. Baker has been dinner chairman for five years and has been working with the picnic about 13 years.

Pat Marlatt of Clarksville was in charge of the chicken preparation. He has been volunteering at the picnic for 15 years. He starts cooking about 7 a.m. after preparing everything the night before. The volunteers keep the five church-owned fryers going all day. An estimated 4,000 pounds of chicken were served this year.

Marilyn Rhodovi, chairwoman of the dining room, managed 250 volunteers in the dining tent from noon to 7 p.m.

"Every year, we need tons of volunteers," said Rhodovi, a Columbia resident. "And we always have a little anticipation before that we're not going to have enough, and we always get enough and we always have beautiful weather!"

Pat O'Toole of Columbia was personnel chairman this year and coordinated the nearly 1,000 volunteers.

"The hard part for me is to make sure we're fully staffed. Late afternoon is always a hard time to fill volunteers slots for the dinner tent," said O'Toole.

According to O'Toole, the picnic boasts the longest standing of any church picnic in Maryland. The Clarksville Picnic began in 1878. The picnic was held on the grounds of the original St. Louis Church and Cemetery on Ten Oaks Road. The picnic was traditionally held on the first Wednesday in August. It was a convenient time for the farmers - between planting and harvest.

The Rev. Michael Egan moved the picnic to downtown Clarksville in 1959, and 10 years later Monsignor Anthony Sauerwein changed the date of the picnic to the last Saturday in June. The change brought in more volunteers and was more appealing to the community.

Carol Owings of Highland has been coming to the picnic for 13 years, and she has been a parishioner since 1985. She attended with her four daughters: Ashley, Rebecca, Natalie and Erin.

"I have been going to it every year and, I think, the kids look forward to it just as much as the parents do. ... It's a community thing," Owings said.

The Clarksville picnic is attended not only by parishioners but also by many other Howard County residents.

Fran Kitzmiller of Dayton served as general chairman for the second year. He coordinated all aspects of the picnic, as well as the weeklong set-up that began the previous Saturday. The picnic is a big money-maker for the St. Louis community. According to Kitzmiller, the church netted about $63,000 last year.

The end of the picnic found most people as enthusiastic as at the opening. Food was on sale. The ice cream was free. White-elephant sale items were marked down, and books were $2 a bag. Visitors scrambled to take advantage of the bargains. As the evening drew to a close, volunteers remained cheerful. "It's such a worthwhile endeavor. ... and it's part of a tradition that I enjoy being involved with," Baker said.

4-H petting zoo

Summer is a very busy season for Dayton 4-H members. Recently, the club ran a petting zoo at Linden Linthicum United Methodist Church.

Members earned $167 and donated the money to the church. Several members of the Dayton club have raised livestock to be sold at the livestock sale during the Howard County Fair. The livestock sale will be at the fairgrounds at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 9.

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