“Where friends meet friends from everywhere,” reads the flier for this year’s St. Vincent de Paul Parish Seminary Picnic. And it’s true.
Between 15-20,000 people from Perryville, St. Louis, and other cities attend the Seminary Picnic during the first weekend in August each year.
Bringing people together since 1901, the Seminary Picnic is the oldest festival in Perry County. This year’s version — the 121st — will be open Friday-Sunday at the Seminary Picnic Grounds on Hwy. T in Perryville.
According to committee spokesman Randy Dickmann, not much has changed since last year’s event.
“It’s basically all the same,” Dickmann said. “We still have the same carnival rides, all the same food stands. Nothing has really changed.”
In earlier years, beauty pageants, play performances, and bingo games entertained the guests, but what once began as a simple family picnic has blossomed into an enormous event that still has the small-town atmosphere of a family reunion —thanks in no small part to the delicious food.
Visitors can partake of home-cooked chicken and dumplings, kettle-cooked beef, slaw, cakes, fruit salad, potato salad, and various refreshments. The meal will be served buffet-style from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday and from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Meal tickets go on sale an hour before on both days.
Dickmann said it’s not unusual to serve more than 3,500 people in the dining hall alone during the two days it’s open.
As for dessert, the picnic’s famed homemade vanilla ice cream will also be available.
As family members bond and old friends catch up over home-cooked food, music and additional entertainment will also be offered. Children can enjoy plane, train, and kiddie-car rides.
A ride on the century-old carousel is something kids will never forget. In addition to these picnic classics, the picnic will offer several other carnival-style games, including a ring toss and a dunking booth.
The picnic will also offer live entertainment with the Burnt Mill Boys playing Friday from 7-11 p.m. The Waterloo German Band will play Saturday afternoon from 3:30-6:30 p.m., while Johnny Holzum and the Well Hungarians finish up the night from 7-11 p.m.
In keeping with tradition, the bingo stand will be a major attraction for many picnic-goers. Throughout the year, well over 100 handcrafted quilts are sewn by the parish’s quilting committee, which meets three times a week to accomplish the momentous task. Some visitors will play bingo all day, every day during the picnic weekend hoping to win one of the quilts.
The picnic, which has become a sort of Perry County Homecoming for those unable to attend class reunions in the fall, often sees classes from St. Vincent’s and Perryville High School holding impromptu reunions.
All proceeds from the picnic go back to the parish to support the St. Vincent de Paul schools and other parish activities.
“It’s amazing how everyone comes together to support St. Vincent,” Dickmann said. Not only the people of the parish, but also the rest of the community.”
For more information about the Seminary Picnic, call the St. Vincent de Paul Parish at 573-547-4591.