Area picnics celebrate summer's last holiday

Tuesday, September 7, 2004

Picnickers in Southeast Missouri and Southern Illinois spent their final summer holiday on Monday gathered outside for food and fun.

Labor Day picnics are a tradition in both Olive Branch, Ill., and Advance, Mo., where the events are more like communitywide homecomings than small gatherings.

In Olive Branch, about 200 people began Labor Day with a pancake breakfast at 6:30 a.m. in the Horseshoe Lake Community Center off Highway 3.

The breakfast was followed by a day of bluegrass music and barbecue. Funnel cakes, snow cones and hot dogs also were part of the picnic fare.

But Sally and Jay Deevers of Cape Girardeau drove to Olive Branch for the music. "When bluegrass gets in your blood, it's in there," Sally Deevers said.

The couple had heard the band Old Santa Fe at a festival last year and wanted to hear another performance.

About 60 people filled the picnic pavilion in the late afternoon to listen to the band's music.

Other picnickers, like Martha Williams of Tamms, Ill., enjoy coming to see old friends and neighbors.

"We usually come every year," she said. This year, though, she and her husband set up a vendor stand and tried to attract some business.

"You're not going to sell out," she said. "But it's something to do and a place to bring the kids and there's entertainment."

The family atmosphere is part of the appeal for the Advance Labor Day picnic. The picnic's been a community tradition for almost 45 years, and this year was no different.

Nearly 6,000 came for a day of rides, food and fellowship. People sat in rows of lawn chairs across from a stage where local bands and music acts performed.

Several churches operated food stands as fund-raising efforts. H&H Amusements operated a half-dozen carnival rides for children.

"We wanted to find things for families without making this a religious event," said Pastor Brad Moore of First Assembly of God Church and a member of the Advance Ministerial Alliance.

The Advance Ministerial Alliance sponsors the city's annual picnic. All the money raised from the day's events is used in the community to help the needy.

"We wanted to find a way to thank the Americans," Moore said. "That's the purpose of Labor Day -- to thank the laborers who work and make America."

ljohnston@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 126

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