The Picnic tradition continues

Published 9:43 am Thursday, August 17, 2017

By Will Marklin

Masonic Picnic

Planning Committee

We just celebrated the 137th Annual Masonic Picnic. Long before any event at Winn-Mock, any silent auction or reverse raffle, the Masons of Davie County have been holding an annual fundraiser to help fund the Oxford Orphanage.

Every year, Masonic brothers and their wives from Farmington, Advance and Mocksville have prepared picnic baskets full of food and welcomed the community to break bread in an effort to support children in our great state. There was a time in the not-so-distant past when this was the annual premier event in the county. There were amusement rides, school bands, reknowned speakers and a community spirit beyond compare.

Attendance has decreased over the past several years. Competing with water parks, Carowinds, and a myriad of recreational opportunities available in the summer months, not to mention increased liability costs for amusement rides, has put a large dent in the attendance and fundraising capacity for the picnic.

We are still holding on to the “ dinner” to keep the tradition alive. For the last two years we have moved the date from the second Thursday in August, which had been the practice for 135 years, to the second Saturday in August. We also made it an evening meal instead of a noon lunch.

In an effort to keep the tradition alive, we have polled attendees to determine what would bring folks out. The changes that have taken place are hard to swallow for folks that are bound by tradition and want it to be “like it used to be”.

It is good to see new faces each year discover for the first time this community event alongside folks who have been attending since they were kids. I have seen young ladies like Wendy Terry and Emily Harpe slide into a space once filled by Vena Harris and Lois Glascock.

I have seen young men like Adam Ressa and Brad Blackwelder fill slots once held by Taylor Slye or Yoman Smith.

It is great to see a new generation carrying the baton and continuing the race.

We did ask some of our local restaurants this year to supplement the picnic baskets. There was some confusion as to the word supplement which means “in addition to” and not “in the place of.” Fortunately, we had plenty of food for everyone.

Much like the story of the two fishes and five loaves of bread in the Bible, there is always concern as to whether or not there will be enough food. There is always more than enough. Yoman Smith, who used to ask the question each year, is now replaced by Ron Olwean, who questions the amount that will be voluntarily brought. Each year about 15 minutes prior to eating time, there is a caravan of cars and trucks that file in and are full of food. This year we had Boy Scout Troop 575 help unload and valet park the cars which was a big help.

Fellow picnic organizer Adam Ressa said restaurants contributions came from CJ’s, East Coast Wings, Deano’s, Miller’s, Kent’s Kitchen, O’Callahans and Restaurant 101.

Jimmy Myers has been a proponent of having an honorarium for the last several years to recognize a Mason or community leader for their service. This year we honored the late Taylor Slye. Taylor worked for as long as I can remember to make the Masonic Picnic a reality. He knew the history of the picnic and would talk for extended periods if asked.

Taylor was also a big supporter of Scouting in Davie County. The members of the scout troop that helped this year had benefitted in some way by the leadership Taylor had given at all levels. He will certainly be missed.

The main purpose of this great event is to raise money for the orphanage. I had the pleasure this year of meeting a gentleman named Waylen Cox. Waylen was the first person to arrive this year, an hour before anyone else arrived. He remembered singing up on the stage back in 1972 when he was one of the many children who came from the orphanage to enjoy the rides and food.

He asked me, “Where are the rides?” I walked him over to where the arbor and stage once were and he remembered vividly being there nearly 50 years ago. He loved the picnic.

The excitement I could see on his face as he remembered took me back to my days as a kid in Mocksville. I remembered pennies falling out of the roc-o-planes, launching the person in front of you on the swings, my sister turning green on the tilt-a-whirl and my riding on the ferris wheel with a special young lady.

I remembered the only game of chance we could play was where you picked up a floating plastic duck and whatever number happened to be on the bottom was your prize. Not much chance of losing on that one. We always played it just before we left and walked back over to Helen Martin’s house where the station wagon was parked. So many good memories – a much simpler time.

In an effort to bolster our fundraising efforts this year, several businesses helped sponsor the event. Jim Brown, Mocksville Masonic Lodge treasurer, said the following businesses and individuals really made a difference in our donations this year: Martin and Van Hoy Law Firm, Fuller Welding, Eatons Funeral Service, Grady McClamrock, Horne Oil, Edward Jones- Brenda Battle, Daniel Furniture, Joe Harris, Mocksville Automotive, Allen Geomatics, Webb Heating and Air, State Farm- Darrel Bandy, Jerry Anderson, Century 21- Mackie McDaniel, Davie Funeral Service, Farmington Wrecker Service and Joe’s Towing Service.

I wonder each year just before the picnic if this will be our last. However, once the last car leaves and the tables are all put away, we are always amazed at the number who attended, the amount of food consumed and the memories that were made.

Right away, we start thinking about what we could do next year to make it better. I appreciate all who were able to attend and invite everyone in the county to join us next year for this very special event.