Saint Mary’s Annual Church Picnic

Trish Turner

Messenger Staff 

The Mattingly family at St. Mary’s picnic in 1914 or 1915. Mary and Isaac were the maternal grandparents of Peggy Greenwell. Pictured are Mary, Dorothy, Isaac, Levi, Claude, Sam, Earl, Alma and Myrtle. The baby Dorothy was Peggy’s mother. Earl, the youngest boy pictured, was the grandfather of Glenn Mattingly and great grandfather of Ethan and Jacob Mattingly (one of the families that will be cooking the chicken for the picnic).

Photo by Trish Turner | The Meade County Messenger - St. Mary Magdalen of Pazzi Catholic Church in Payneville.

St. Mary’s Annual Picnic will be on Saturday, July 9th from 3:00 until 7:00 p.m. After a hiatus of two years due to COVID restrictions they will be having their traditional picnic again with delicious fried chicken and slow-cooked beef dinners. The cost of the meal is $12 for adults and $6 for children. The church is located at 110 KY-376 in Payneville, not far from the intersection of Payneville Road (KY-144) and KY-376. St. Mary’s is the only church picnic in the Meade County community that has been held continuously since the early 1900’s.The picnic will be a festive occasion that includes a silent auction, booths that offer games such as the Dart Game, Cane Rack, Festival Bingo, Cake Wheel, and Pull Tabs. Other booths will be set up with face painting, household items for sale, vegetables, and fruit for sale from local farmers, a church history booth, and items from the Meade County History Museum. The booths will be open at 2:00 p.m.This year at the Meade County History Museum booth a replica of the Spear of Destiny will be on display. The spearhead is part of the instrument that was used to pierce the side of Christ during His crucifixion. Many historical figures were in possession of the original spear, including Constantine the Great and Charlemagne. It ended up in the Hofburg Treasure House in Vienna Austria where Adolf Hitler saw it and later took possession of it. At the end of World War II it was found by members of the U.S. Army in the ruins of Hitler’s bunker and was returned to the House of Hapsburg after the war. You will want to come out to the picnic and view this interesting replica of a historical treasure, which is on loan to the history museum from Geraldine and Chris Stith. At the picnic there will be pony rides, the barrel train, and bouncy houses for children to enjoy. This year a beautiful quilt made by Lois Fackler, who has won several ribbons at the Meade County Fair, will be raffled. Lois is continuing the tradition of providing a handmade quilt to raffle at the picnic. For many years Ailene Stull made quilts for the raffle, and in more recent years her daughter Debbie Pickering had assisted her. Capital Prize Raffle tickets will be sold for $2 each for a chance to win the first prize of $1,500, second prize $300, or third prize $200. During the picnic there will also be many local classic cars on display on the grounds.There will be a Baby Contest this year and there is a $10 fee to register your baby by 1:30 p.m. on the day of the picnic. It is beach themed and baby girls need to wear a swimsuit and baby boys should wear swim trunks. Categories are ages 0-6 months, 7-12 months, 13-18 months, and 19-24 months. The contest will start at 2:00 p.m. with ages 0-6 months. Peggy Greenwell and several other members of St. Mary’s parish provided me with a lot of information about the history of the church and the annual picnic. The St. Mary Magdalen of Pazzi Catholic Church in Payneville was officially dedicated in 1876 after a small mission church was formed there in 1871 from the parishes of St. Theresa in Rhodelia and Holy Guardian Angel in Mount Merino, near Irvington. Although there must have been earlier picnics, the first that was advertised in the local paper, The Meade County Messenger, was on August 8, 1903. It was held on the Frank Greenwell estate near Payneville on what is believed to be the current location of Stull’s Country Store in Andyville. The ad read; “One of the grandest picnics of the season…Some of the candidates for various offices will be present and speak upon the political issues of the day. An excellent band will furnish music for the occasion. Refreshments of all kinds served….Game of Baseball between two picked nines [two teams consisting of nine players]….Officers will be present to maintain order. No intoxicating drinks allowed on the grounds.” Up through the 1930’s the roads in the country were all gravel and people came to the picnic in their horse drawn wagons. It was a special outing for every family, and they came from miles around. Margie Stull was quoted in the July 7, 2016 edition of The Meade County Messenger as saying that one of her first memories of the picnic in the late 1930’s was Miss Berthy Greenwell and her brothers coming to the grounds the day before the picnic to kill and dress the sheep and small cows in the tree line behind where the church hall now stands. “They put them in great big pots and stayed all night cooking the meat,” she said. “They didn’t have a way to store the meat, so it had to be fresh.” Things are done a bit differently these days, but the beef is still cooked in the big iron kettles for several hours. As Peggy Greenwell reminisced about all the picnics that she and her family have participated in she stated that she heard that the first picnic held on the grounds of St. Mary’s was in the fall of 1929. For many years it was a tradition that the family that first took charge of a booth continued to pass that responsibility down to each generation of that family. In Peggy’s case her husband Larry started helping his sister and sister-in-law in the cake booth when he was a young boy. After they married in 1964, Peggy began working in the booth, and later their children Leigh Ann, Sandy, and Jody helped in the booth. In the 1990’s the Greenwell family passed the duties on to Paul and Audrey Stull, who passed it on to Rosemary and Ron Rice. Peggy noted that they are all distantly related, as are most of St. Mary parishioners. It has also been a tradition to pass on the job each family has done at the picnic. Even if they have moved away, some family members come back and help make the tea, cook the beef or the chicken, and work in the kitchen just as their parents and grandparents have done. The Pike family has been cooking the beef in the big iron kettles for many years. Leon Pike related that he remembers his family cooking the beef, potatoes, beans and dressing since 1955. He said he does not remember when the dressing was added to the picnic menu, but he can remember eating it as a child. People look forward to the dressing that is flavored with the beef broth from the slow cooked beef. Leon mentioned that the Mattingly family has been cooking the fried chicken since around 1969. Music has been a big part of making the picnic more festive. As noted in the 1903 newspaper article above, a band furnished music for the occasion. Since that time many local musicians have entertained during the picnics. In 1997 a local band named Sudden Change performed during the picnic and provided background for the Hager Twins, who were famous from their appearances on the TV show Hee-Haw. This year there will be a live band, Verland and Co. performing during the picnic. The members of this band are from the Vine Grove and Flaherty area, and they play a mix of genres.The annual church picnic is an important event for the members of St. Mary’s parish. Those who volunteer to help are assigned to work with dinner ticket sales, cooking the food, working in the kitchen as helpers, parking, booth duty and various other jobs. Each family in the parish is asked to contribute, as they are able, cakes for the cake wheel, desserts for the meal, broken fresh or canned green beans, ten pounds or more of peeled potatoes, cucumbers and/or pickles, fresh vegetables, fruit, jams, and jellies for the vegetable stand, and items for the household booth. The proceeds from the picnic will enable upkeep of the buildings at St. Mary’s parish and for programs to benefit the community and meet the needs of their own members.The church will be celebrating its 150th anniversary in 2026. Keep your eyes open for a future article that will give details about the grand celebration that all the community will be invited to.

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