Old Settlers Picnic brings back memories
As a child Dottie (Ashmore) Lanham remembers waiting in great anticipation for the Old Settlers Picnic.
“It was the highlight of the summer for us,” said Lanham, who will soon be 88. “It was quite an affair.”
The 120th annual Old Settlers Picnic will be held Sunday at Old Settlers Picnic Grounds in Burdickville. Lanham figures she’s attended at least 80 of them.
“It was exciting. We didn’t live far from there and we’d walk down early to see what was going on,” Lanham said.
The first picnic was held on Aug. 3, 1893, in honor of Kasson Freeman Jr. and John Fisher. Families would arrive by horse and buggies and bring a picnic lunch to eat on the shore of Big Glen Lake. Children swam, played games and at one time could have tug boat rides on the lake.
“It was great to see everybody we knew. You knew your neighbors then. You don’t so much any more,” Lanham said.
She has been to every Old Settlers Picnic with the exception of the years her husband, Fred Lanham Sr., was in the Coast Guard.
Since returning to the area in the late 1940s, the Lanhams — and their children — have been a big part of organizing the annual event as members of the Old Settlers Picnic Association. Dottie’s son and daughter in-law, Fred and Bunny Lanham, have leadership roles in the event which has changed dramatically since its beginnings, but still maintains a historic focus.
Those attending may bring a lunch. However, the Empire Masonic Lodge provides a barbecue meal onsite, which usually includes corn from the Noonan family. Instead of horse and buggies, picnic-goers are encouraged to drive their old cars. There are also demonstrations of corn shelling, a shingle mill and old tractors.
The day begins at 10:30 a.m. with a church service in the Old Settlers chapel, officiated by the Rev. Marvin Roses. The Masons will serve lunch from noon to 3 p.m. with live music in the background.
The annual meeting of the Old Settlers Picnic Association will be held at 1:30 p.m. and cash prizes will be awarded for oldest man and woman in attendance; youngest person; most recently married and those who have come from the longest distance to attend.