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By Cynthia Haggitt
After a yearly interruption brought on by the pandemic, St. Mary’s Westwoods Church members came to their annual family picnic this past weekend with a different mindset. They were going to celebrate big or go home.
The picnic is a yearly homecoming for everybody. Whether you are a kid or an adult, families come for two days both night and day to get out, enjoy themselves. Families come every year to meet one another– for a small town, it’s a pretty big event. Rumors flew around the gossip mill that the picnic might be diminished because the church had to skip their traditional picnic last year with a drive-through. However this year, the consensus has been just the opposite.
“We just didn’t want our members to go without and it was like we didn’t do anything like this last year, ‘’ Aaron Goetten said.
Goetten was in charge of this year’s committee and after long discussions and a lot of planning , they made up their minds that they we’re not going to do just a carry-out drive through because of COVID.
“We can try to make it work just so we can say we did something together, because a lot of this picnic, it’s not just a fundraiser,” Goetten said. “What we’re doing is spending time with each other. This is a social time for our parishioners. We want to invite people out from the community to see that we’re here and what this community of Westwood is all about. But we also want to hang out with ourselves.”
Goetten mentioned that it takes five days to pull this off. There may be two days of activities, but it’s five days of work and starting early in the week, everyone involved all showed up to make the event a success.
“What some people always have said, and there’s some truth to this is that they say this picnic just kind of runs itself because we just know people are going to make sure everything is taken care of,” Goetten said. “The people who came tonight are part of this community, and if a person walks around and talks to people, they’ll say: well, I was standing right here every year for the last ten years, except for last. If you have dedicated parishioners that are always going to be there, then it’s really not too hard to do.”
Goetten said last year during the picnic it rained and he was just talking to some people at the picnic about what happened in 2020.
“They are looking back and that was part of the fun. People will never forget that when we had the fish fry and what happened, and how we ended up doing great despite COVID,” Goetten said. “Last year, nobody got out of their cars and everybody was out on the other side of the Church in the Park Lane. We directed traffic, served them to their window, and they took it and left.” Goetten said. “The people around the community are always helpful. The church got help from people in Jersey County and help from Calhoun and Greene, other neighboring counties.”
Goetten said when they found out we were having a fish fry, they stepped up and they came, and we ran out.
“We knew we were going to run out of fish and we got the fish from Hamburg. The location is in Calhoun County on the Mississippi River and we made a call, and we said that we’re going to run out of fish,” Goetten said. “They brought fish to the bridge in Hardin, and met one of us just to get it here as soon as we could get it. It saved us from having to drive to go get it.”
Goetten said that’s just one example of people who were willing to help us out. Telpro UCE, in Jerseyville, is another example.
“I called Denny Steckel this morning and asked– hey, can I check on something in our order? He was available and he talked to David Hanson from Han’s Packing. It was mentioned that we have a big order with them and he asked me if we needed anything,” Goetten said with expression. “He also asked if there was anything Han’s Packing could do for us?” This conversation that went on was several weeks before the picnics and as they say in Kampsville ‘It takes a Village.’
The attendees came on Saturday and Sunday from all over. They socialized with their family, got into the participation for the cash raffles which were donated by many local businesses.
“We have several different raffles. There’s probably four or five different kinds of raffles and we have bingo, which was not easy to do this year because it was tough to get a license and we did. It just took a lot of work,” Goetten said. “But for last year, we just didn’t give up. We just keep working until we figured it out.”
On Saturday, Goetten said the meal was buffalo fish, roast beef sandwiches, kabobs and brats. On Sunday, the dinner was their fried chicken and sliced roast beef and side.
“We two great meals planned. Tonight, Flip the Frog is here and they are playing. Personally, I feel people come here for more than all of that is just to see each other,” Goetten said. “I think that they just want to socialize with their community members and there’s a lot of people who come to this that don’t live here anymore, but they might have grown up here, and they come back. A couple of girls over here I was just talking to are examples of that they never miss and they always make sure that they mark it on the calendar. But it’s picnic weekend and they come home. It’s like a homecoming.”
Goetten said that it is really neat to see something like this on Saturday and Sunday. There’ll be a lot of the same people who will come back. But then as far as the public goes, there might be a whole other crowd.
“There might be the people that kind of like the afternoon, Sunday afternoon vibe rather than the evening, and the band and walking around in the dark. So by the end of the weekend, there’s a lot of people I’m sure are having a lot of fun,” Goetten said.