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'Father Moenig's Picnic': Annual gathering has long history

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

(Photo)
Bryce Dirnberger (left) and Trent Irwin on Monday piece together fencing for the petting zoo at the annual New Hamburg Picnic, which is set for Friday and Saturday. Sponsored by the St. Lawrence Catholic Church, activities also include a smorgasbord dinner, children's tractor pull, carnival-type games and raffles.
(Leonna Heuring, Staff)
NEW HAMBURG -- A 1920 advertisement of the annual New Hamburg picnic in the Scott County Democrat newspaper promoted an animal show of thoroughbred Guernsey cattle and Poland China swine, a big barbecued dinner and supper plus plenty of enjoyment.

Nearly 100 years later, and the German village's nearly 200 families continue to offer a big dinner, farm animals and lots of entertainment through the annual fundraiser of the town's only church, St. Lawrence Catholic Church.

Lifelong St. Lawrence church member Pat Moore said the two-day event is a tradition for many Southeast Missouri residents.

"They like to see their old friends, and a lot of people have roots in New Hamburg, and they come back because of that," said Moore, who serves as a co-chair of both the hamburger stand and smorgasbord dinner.

This year's picnic is set for 5 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. Friday and 3 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. Saturday in New Hamburg.

In the July 29, 1920, issue of the Scott County Democrat newspaper, an article about the church's priest, Clement Moenig, said the annual event -- then referred to as the "New Hamburg Community Harvest Festival" or "Father Moenig's Picnic" -- was known throughout Southeast Missouri, feeding 3,000 people in 1919.

The article said meats were barbecued on the grounds in a grove close to the church. Fires in the pits were lighted eight days before picnic day and burned constantly while men kept turning the carcasses on the spits. They cooked four steers, 20 sheep, 20 hogs and 300 chickens. Bread was baked in the farm homes and everything was contributed by farmers.

Over the years, the barbecued meals have evolved into a a smorgasbord dinner, which serves about 925 people from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday in the church's parish center.

Moore said many people appreciate the fact the meal is home cooked. Fried chicken, chicken and dumplings, roast beef and gravy, buttered potatoes, cabbage and cucumber slaws and fresh tomato and green pepper slices are included in the menu.

While the animals aren't as big as those shown in the earlier days of the picnic, the petting zoo is popular with children of all ages, according to Joe Dirnberger, who runs the petting zoo.

"I think some kids don't get to see or own animals, and they like to come in and play with the kittens and the puppies and the other animals," Dirnberger said.

Both nights include refreshments, carnival-type games for children and adults. A washer tournament, horseshoe tournament, talent show, turtle races and children's tractor pull are also slated for the weekend.

A twist was added to this year's quilt raffle conducted by the church's women's group, the St. Ann Sodality. All proceeds from the quilt raffle will go to St. Mary's Catholic Church in Joplin, which was destroyed by the May 22 tornado that struck the city.

Margie Klipfel, St. Lawrence church member and quilter, said the peach, queen-sized quilt being raffled is completely hand-quilted and handmade by the women of the church.

For the entire story, see the July 12 edition of the Standard Democrat or click here to log on to the electronic edition.