Masonic Picnic a tradition worth preserving

Published 8:56 am Thursday, August 9, 2018

It ain’t what it used to be.

Nothing is and none of us are. But nonetheless, we’re worth preserving.

Kudos to the Masons of Davie County, who have kept the Masonic Picnic going for some 138 years. Some call it the oldest, continuously held fundraising event in the state. Maybe it is, or maybe it isn’t, but one thing is for sure.

It is important.

It’s important to Davie County and its residents.

Those of us who are middle-age or older and grew up in Davie County certainly remember the Masonic Picnic. So did our parents. And our grandparents.

It was a rite of passage, so to speak, to attend the event every August. It included a week-long carnival, and as always, the famous picnic lunch on noon on Thursday.

I remember looking forward to the picnic every year, with rides like the scrambler, a roller coaster, the tilt-a-whirl and the ferris wheel, and the gawkers urging you to spend your very last dime on a game of chance.

It may be where I developed my fear of heights. Stopped on the top once, my passenger began rocking the chair on the ferris wheel. I was terrified. When we finally made it to the bottom to get off, they had to pry my hands from the bar I was holding on so tightly. And to think I really wanted to ride that ferris wheel with that particular girl.

I remember tossing every nickel I had onto a table filled with dishes and ash trays and glasses. If your nickel landed in or on the item, you got it. I was so proud to take the bag full of glass home to my mother. She wasn’t so pleased.

I remember going to the picnic with a girl, and being lucky enough to win her a stuffed animal. I don’t think she really wanted it, but she went along with my growing male ego just the same.

That was in the 60s.

I remember my dad talking about getting an acre of cotton to call his own. He had sold the cotton and went to town with the cash. He lost it all on a spinning wheel game at the picnic, probably in the late 1920s or early 1930s. A lesson learned.

Yes, the picnic was a big deal to Davie County folks. It brought us together. It was an exciting foray from the normal. A few people even left town with the picnic, trying the carnival life for themselves.

Ahh, but the small carnivals are few and far between these days. Competition from places like Carowinds and dozens of other entertainment options put the end to the picnic carnival.

It almost put an end to the picnic, as attendance began dwindling.

But the Masons would have nothing to do with that. The picnic now is a one evening affair, with the famous picnic dinner being held this Saturday evening after a brief presentation honoring some of Davie’s finest. Music is also a part of the festivities.

There’s a good reason for keeping the tradition going, and it has much more to do with just keeping a tradition alive.

It’s for the children. Picnic proceeds support the N.C. Masonic Home for Children, formerly known as the Oxford Orphanage.

A good cause? You betcha.

The late Taylor Slye escorted us to the orphanage many years ago. Five minutes in the toddler cottage, and you were hooked. The Masonic Home does good work.

I doubt there’s another place where you can gorge on fried chicken, tomato sandwiches and potato salad and dozens of desserts – all while supporting such a worthwhile cause.

– Mike Barnhardt