It is not known exactly when the Leopold Picnic began as a commercial type of festival. There is every reason to believe that the first picnic was held in 1890 by the way of celebration. This first picnic, although it was perhaps not a means of financial gain to the parish, was no doubt the fore-runner of the picnics which date to the present time.
As early expense paid on July 23, 1893, was the purchase of 12 gallons of paint "for the picnic". The paint included red, blue, white, two kinds of green, and two kinds of brown. Whatever the picnic consisted of, it was quite certain that it was a colorful affair.
An article written for the newspaper, Farm Bureau News, on January 26, 1940, by Mrs. J. H. Elfrink, indicated that the first picnic, about 50 years before that time, was held because people realized that they needed some kind of get-together for a good time. The first affair turned out to be so popular with visitors that they asked that it made an annual affair.
The lemonade stand was the ancestor of the modern soda stand. Soda, at that time, was very new, and people were afraid to drink it because "it popped and fizzed when it was opened".
The Flying Dutchman Ride was an important feature the early picnics. It was a type of merry-go-round operated by mule power. The fare for the exciting ride was five cents, and reports have it that the seats were nearly always full.
At the early picnics the dance floor was operated all day instead of just in the evening. Music for the dances was provided by the Horrell Brothers.
Over 60 years have passed since the first picnic was held. The same picnic grounds have been in use through the years. The stands and entertainment features have changed, but the annual affair has become so famous that the words, "I'll see you at the Leopold Picnic", have been almost a by-word.
The first record of picnic income was found in the records of the Young Men's Society. An entry dated August 19, 1900, read as follows: Paid to the Young Men's Society from picnic -- $5.00. Records of profit from the picnic begin with the year 1901. In order to give some idea of the size and importance of the picnic in the early days, we give the following account of income from the picnic since it started to show a profit.
The average profit from the picnics held from 1901 to 1917 was $565.31, with a low of $450.00 and a high of $801.13.
In 1918, because the first World War, there was no picnic, but donations in its stead amounted to $540.75.
From 1919 to 1931, the income averaged $966.82, with a low of $803.39 and a high of $1168.49.
During the next four years, probably as a result of the depression, the average income dropped to $799.75.
From 1936 to 1942, the income remained between $1000.00 and $1500.00 with the exception of the year 1938 when it dropped to $952.86.
In 1943, 1944, and 1945, no picnics were held because of World War II, but donations produced the average amount usually made at the picnics.
Beginning with 1946, when picnic proceeds rose to $4256.60, the average profits have been three to four times as great as the highest amount previous to that time.
The first two-day picnic was held in 1954. The dates for the Leopold Picnic had been set permanently for the last Saturday and Sunday in July each year.
In October of the same year a Fall Festival was held. Although the main purpose of this festival was to dispose of surplus goods and supplies remaining from the picnic, the occasion proved to be so successful that the Fall Festival will probably become as much a tradition as the picnic.
As an outgrowth of the Quilt Stand of the picnic, the ladies of St. John's Parish held a Quilt Social in St. Louis during the Spring of 1955. This affair was so successful that it was repeated in the Spring of 1956. However, the effects of certain legal restrictions seem to indicate at this time it will be impossible to continue holding the Quilt Social. By the same token, "Bingo", which was always one of the most popular features of the picnic, was left out of the picnic in 1956.
It is quite possible that before 1912 the picnic dinners had only chicken and dumplings as the main course. Beginning with the year 1912, beef was donated for the picnic by the parishioners. Recently the practicing of donating pork, also, was started. At the beginning the donations consisted of beef.
Since 1973, no further individual donations of beef or pork have been recorded in the parish records. For a number of years the individuals listed as donors had not always donated an actual beef, but had donated an amount of money sufficient to purchase a half or whole. The records are not complete in this respect. Beginning with the 1973 picnic parishioners were asked for picnic donations to help defray the cost of purchasing beef or pork which was already processed.
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Several changes have been made
past 25 years with respect to the picnic
kitchen and dining facilities have
The old "soda" stand has been rebuilt
a new concrete floor, and one end
screened to house the "hamburger"
ages of "kids" enjoy the "new" fish
this year, for the first time, picnic-g
buy a sno-cone at the Leopold pi
No longer is the picnic of two-day
this has not hampered the continu
in financial success of the picnic. Fo
several years the net income has
$10,000.00. The picnic has indeed
popular in the area that a major
the ability to adequately serve
numbers in attendance. Frequently
years the dining room has come a
close to running out of food.
God has continued to look with
bless the picnic day with good
Rarely has rain been a problem for
an hour or so of the day.
Changes will no doubt continue to
and new faces will be seen, but th
will endure, "See you at the Leopold Picnic
– last Saturday and every July!"