ORAN -- The Oran Knights of Columbus Fourth of July picnic's roots run deep in not only the small town, but also in many families who have been involved for many generations.
Just ask Lawrence "Lefty" Seyer. Since moving to Oran as a child in 1935, he has been to the picnic every year but one, when he went to a family gathering. For the most part, family gatherings are in Oran, though.
"It's a perfect time to come home because you know that there's going to be a lot of people there that you haven't seen maybe since the last picnic," he sad. "You come to the picnic knowing that you're going to see quite a few people."
Teal Mangels agreed. "It's just old friends getting together," she said. "You see people that have left Oran and moved other places but they always come home."
Like many families with children who have moved away, two of Seyer's eight children are coming back to Oran for this year's picnic. "They've grown into this idea of coming to the picnic at Oran for the Fourth," he said.
"That's all we ever knew growing up," Mangels added.
But that isn't the only tradition. For many, the committee or place they work is routine. Now, the third, fourth and fifth generation of families are running the picnic.
For instance, 84-year-old Violet Glastetter has worked in the ice cream stand since 1938, when she was 16, when her neighbor ran the stand. In 1963, when the KCs took over the picnic from Guardian Angel Church, she and her husband took over the chairmanship, which they assumed for many years, Seyer said.
Over the years, Glastetter's children and grandchildren have worked in the stand, too. And once again, her smiling face will be found serving ice cream next week.
"Each year the list (of people working in the dining hall is pretty much the same," said Mangels, who is co-chairwoman of the dining hall committee. "It's usually the same ones who work."
The committee actually goes over the list to ensure everyone is still able to work. If someone can't wait tables but still wants to work, they find another task for them to do, such as cutting cakes.
"We assign them to tasks if they're able to be there so they feel included -- we want them to feel they're still needed," Seyer said. He recalled of a woman in her 80s who was formerly one of the main cooks that now sits by the trash can to be sure servers don't dump silverware when clearing the tables.
The KCs also stay connected with the widows of deceased members, sponsoring several activities for them through out the year. "Because of this close connection, a very large percent of the widows still help at the picnic," Seyer said. Additionally, the daughters of all members are invited to help wait tables in the dining hall.
"We've got a lot of dedicated support and workers out there for us," Seyer said.
The picnic began in 1908 and has been held annually since, excluding three years in the midst of World War II, Seyer said. "It's probably the longest running picnic in Southeast Missouri for the Fourth of July," he said.
In 1963, when the sponsorship swapped to the KCs, the location moved from the old pavilion in Oran to its current location, just off Highway 77 in Oran. Seyer says there's something for everyone at the picnic, including games for the little ones, dancing for the teenagers, bingo for all ages and a horseshoe tournament. At 10 p.m., there is a fireworks display, which he said is "about as good of fireworks display as you will find anywhere in this area of the state."
And of course, there's the all-you-can-eat meal. "I'd say the meal is the main attraction," Mangels said. "The food is delicious" In the past few years, over 2,000 people have been served.
But there is something more important to Seyer. "Being able to visit," he said. "You can get good food at a lot of places, but there's something of a nostalgia of coming to Oran for good food and being able to visit with longtime friends."