Older members of the Church of the Annunciation in Elma remember attending the summer picnic as children. Fr. Eugene “Shorty” Selbert was pastor in 1937 when the parish transformed the lawn fete into a community picnic. It became known as the “Elma Picnic.”
Everything was local. Neighboring farmers provided the food (vegetables, meat and fruit) and parishioners (families and friends) prepared and served the delicious home cooking to the enjoyment of guests. Most of the fixings were done by parishioners, who plucked and cleaned the birds. In time the one-day event would expand to two days and then to three days. The picnic became a popular summer destination on the third weekend of August. People looked forward to the live music, great food, drinks, raffles, games and fun. It became an occasion of meeting friends, making new ones and family reunions. And a lot of hard work.
The Markowski family has been involved with the Annunciation Picnic for generations. They provided Buffalo’s own Iroquois Beer and Voegele’s Soft Drinks (Lancaster) back in the 1950s and 1960s. Florian Markowski, when he was eight years old, helped in the “penny pitch.” Last year, at 90, Florian and his wife Shirley were cutting vegetables for chowder with Larry and Barb Komendat and their family. Bill and Kathy Markowski ran the car show and served fish fries with Bill’s sister Patty Burdette in the food pavilion. French fries were a picnic favorite with potatoes supplied by Aldinger Farms, Alden.
Fr. Gene Ulrich chronicles his tenure as pastor by the number of picnics. He arrived in July 2007 and immediately got caught up in picnic preparation. He is happy to announce that the parish will host its 83rd consecutive summer picnic.
“We are going back to the original one-day picnic and making it a drive up and takeout affair on Saturday, Aug. 15, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. or sell-out. We are calling it a Pickup Picnic.”
Fr. Ulrich explains that with concern for Covid-19, the Pickup Picnic allows people to stay in their cars, purchase Wendel’s BBQ Chicken and our famous chowder and then picnic at home. Chicken is $12, and a quart of chowder is $8. Pre-sale orders assure availability. People can go to the parish website, annunciation.cc, scroll down, bottom right, and click on “Online Giving.” Pre-sale orders should be picked up by 1 p.m. You can also drive up, order and pay that day. The Church of the Annunciation is located at the corner of Clinton Street and Schwartz and Girdle roads in Elma.
Fr. Ulrich remarked, “The church picnic is more than a tradition, more than a successful and essential fundraiser. It gathers our faith community together with a sense of purpose and instills the value of the importance of family.”