By Mollie Landers
NEW HAMBURG -- Although Pat Moore is unsure of the exact year the New Hamburg picnic started, she said it has gone on "as long as she can remember."
"My parents worked (there) and we always went along, and we always looked forward to meeting with friends and family," Moore, said. "In those days, we didn't get to travel as much."
The annual picnic is this weekend, from 5 to 11:30 p.m. today and 3 to 11:30 p.m. Saturday. The event has become a tradition that, as Moore put it, is "instilled" in many area families.
Moore, who is chairman of the hamburger stand and whose husband, Jewell Moore, is one of the chairmen of the picnic, said the basics of the picnic are always about the same, including food, games and entertainment. The number of activities for children has increased over the years, including a tractor pull, turtle race and a petting zoo. The petting zoo includes animals such as a bucking calf, a mule, a peacock and puppies.
"Puppies are usually the hit of it," Moore said, adding that many people whose pets have just had a litter of puppies will bring them to the petting zoo to give away.
There are a few competitions at the picnic, including a washers tournament and a talent contest on Saturday afternoon, and an amateurs only karaoke contest Saturday night. Registration for the washer tournament begins at 3 p.m. on the basketball court with play beginning at 3:30. Registration for the karaoke contest will begin at 6 p.m. for both the adult and youth divisions. The prize is $100.
As for the talent contest, the registration deadline has passed but performances begin for the junior division (ages 6 to 12) at 2 p.m. and for the senior division (ages 13 to 21) at 3 p.m.
Sherry Grojean, who is in charge of the talent contest, said the contest gets bigger every year. She noted that it is held in the school cafeteria, which often becomes close quarters. "It gets pretty interesting because it's so crowded," Grojean said.
There are five top prizes in both divisions, with the first place prize at $25 for the junior division. Senior prizes are double, beginning at $50 for first place. The prize goes down in $10 increments for each lower place.
Along with the cash prizes, the first place winner in the senior division receives an automatic invitation to perform in the talent show at the Memphis State Fair.
"The Memphis competition is the main thing they want to get to after they compete all summer long," Grojean said.
Grojean noted that one of the three judges is from Memphis and has invited as many as 10 senior contestants to compete in the Memphis Fair along with the first place winner.
Planning for the picnic begins in May, but this week is the toughest because of the final preparations.
"Monday until Sunday is constant," Moore said.
Although it may be hectic, the help of the St. Lawrence parishioners is what keeps the picnic going.
"The parishioners respond and all work together and help each other. We couldn't do it without them. They're the ones who are really dedicated," Moore said.
If the weather cooperates, Moore said they expect about 2,000 to 2,500 people out at the picnic and close to 1,000 at the meal at the St. Lawrence Parish Center from 4 to 7 p.m. on Saturday. The Center will serve fried chicken, chicken and dumplings, roast beef and gravy and all the trimmings. The cost is $7 for adults, $3 for children ages 6 to 12 and children under 5 eat free.