Seminary picnic draws 25,000 over weekend

Monday, August 4, 2003

PERRYVILLE, Mo. -- Though the simple church picnic has grown into a community event and new carnival rides and games are added each year, there's one thing that remains constant about the St. Vincent de Paul Parish picnic: vanilla ice cream.

Sure, some people complain about the lack of toppings or request chocolate, but no one refuses a scoop of the homemade ice cream.

And all those scoops add up to about $20,000 per year for the Catholic parish.

The picnic is held each year on the first Friday, Saturday and Sunday of August across from the tree grove on the seminary grounds and raises nearly $100,000 for the church. The ice cream stand collects about one-fifth of that total each year.

The money collected is used to operate the parish school. The event marked its 103rd birthday this year.

The Rev. Kevin Fausz, priest at St. Vincent de Paul Church, said the picnic helps keep the school open. There isn't one specific project funded by the money, but everything is used in general revenue for the school, which teaches children from preschool through high school, he said.

About 25,000 people attended over the weekend, according to police estimates. There is no gate fee, so no one is certain how many people are on the grounds at one time.

'One flavor, but it's good'

But more than likely, they've been to get a scoop of that famed ice cream.

"There's only one flavor, but it's good," said Derek Fuhrmann, 16.

"And this is the only time of the year that we get it," added Blake Dannenmueller.

It takes three days to make enough ice cream -- almost 600 gallons -- to feed the crowds at the picnic.

The recipe is a secret, but has been modified from the original, which used raw eggs. Today, the ice cream starts with a sort of custard mix that creates the French vanilla taste.

"And we taste it to make sure it's up to standards," said Bob Schumer, who is the stand's chairman.

There seldom is any ice cream left over, either.

It's sold by the half-gallon container for nine tickets, and Diane Miget said she has seen plenty of teenage boys come up to the stand and ask for a half-gallon and a spoon.

When it started 103 years ago, the picnic was just a basket dinner held on the grounds and attended by church members. It has since grown to an ecumenical event, drawing guests from across Perry County and even some from St. Louis.

At the first picnics, there was only food and a few games or rides on horse and buggy, said Bill Wingerter Sr., who's been helping with the picnic for 40 years.

Now, food stands abound at the seminary picnic -- and a meal comes cheap. Tickets are 50 cents each, and one will buy a soda or a hamburger or a single scoop of ice cream. Four will get nachos or a barbecued chicken breast.

There's also a buffet-style dinner served in the dining hall with kettle-cooked beef, dressing and chicken. Other stands sell catfish or sausages or funnel cakes.

The event involves thousands of people from the parish, some of whom have been operating the stands for generations, Fausz said.

ljohnston@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 126

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