This traditional gathering of the local community started at the beginning of the 20th Century and continues on a grander scale well into the 21st Century. The very first Seminary Picnic began as a social gathering at Klump's Grove west of the present city. The picnic moved to its present location in 1906
In the beginning, residents of the area came in wagons with supplies for the day. They brought live chickens, corn from the fields, and produce from their gardens to prepare a meal for the gathering. Their first meals were cooked outside in kettles. Some of the ladies remember their mother's tales of rolling dumplings and hanging them on the fence to dry. The enterprising ladies of the community organized one of the first daycare centers. The older ladies of the parish cared for young children while their mothers prepared the picnic meal. This daycare center was a tent with baby cribs made of cardboard boxes lined with blankets. Rev. Stephen P. Hueber, C.M. delivered an address to the 1903 picnic crowd on the subject of the Louisiana Purchase.
Electric lights made their appearance at the picnic grove in 1914. In the beginning, the picnic was only a one-day affair with a meal and music. In 1933 the picnic expanded to two days - first on a Friday and Saturday and later it was moved to Saturday and Sunday. Some of the early years included a Queen Contest for the parish's young ladies, with a trip as the prize.
In the 1940s, dances at the picnic drew big crowds. Many of the young ladies wore long formal dresses. Dances were 10 cents each. Dinner at the 1943 picnic would cost you 50 cents. The bingo prizes were 125 hand-made quilts. There was entertainment such as "The Flying Sullivans" (an aerial act) and raffles for cash, War Bonds, and cars. a 1941 Chevrolet Master Deluxe Town Sedan was raffled. In 1943, a $1000 War Bond was the grand prize. There were also attendance prizes for "the visitor coming to the greatest distance, the oldest married couple," and similar categories. There were horse races, nail driving contests, a penny hunt, and egg races. The picnic also sponsored a professional boxing match between Elmer Savage, featherweight champion of St. Louis, MO, and Jesse Pitts of East St. Louis. In addition, there was a professional wrestling match between George Toby of Bonne Terre, MO, and Frank Wendling of St. Louis, MO. Picnic goers were entertained over the years by such local bands as the Biehle Nighthawks; Jolly Five; the Brewer Band; Goofus 7-piece Band; the Schnubusch Cornet Band; and the Nesslein Band.
What began as a social gathering for the local residents has grown into a major fundraising project for St. Vincent Parish. While the parish sponsors and organizes the annual event, the entire community takes ownership and supports the annual Seminary Picnic.
The area was settled by a group of Catholic settlers from Barren County, Kentucky. Saint Mary's of the Barrens Seminary was the first home of St. Vincent DePaul Parish and the source of the name "Seminary Picnic." The parish actually had two churches in which to worship: the old historic Church of the Assumption and St. Boniface Church on W. St. Joseph St. In the early 1960s, parishioners built the new St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church to combine the parish into one gathering place to worship.
The tradition of the Seminary Picnic remains with the local residents and their many annual visitors.
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