The annual St. James Parish Picnic took place on Sunday, June 23, 2013. It featured activities and games, including a Dunk Tank, Hoola Hoop Contests, water balloons, as well as music and fun for all ages.
Mark Jacks, who got involved after a friend encouraged him to “put teachings into practice,” is part of the Youth Ministry Team. He said that the Youth Ministry Team is “out to help people.” This year, he is volunteering with the hockey game. Emily Swanson said that this is her third year volunteering for the Parish Picnic, “I got involved with it because it seemed really fun. A lot of my friends were in it, and I wanted to do different service projects.” She thinks that the biggest attractions will be the Dunk Tank and the Bouncy House, “the kids have most fun with those…they’re dunking their friends.” She said that she “would put the same [attractions] that we already have here. I think that they’re the best-picked ones for this event,” but would increase advertising for the Picnic. Jack Carso, who has been coming to Parish Picnic for 3 years, said that it’s his second year volunteering, “I wanted to help people a lot, and it’s a good thing to do, and it makes you feel good.” He said that the Picnic attracts a lot of children 5-9 years of age, “…so it’s like younger kids.” Carso thinks that the biggest attraction will “…definitely [be] the dunk tank. I think kids like making the other kids fall in the water. It’s funny.” It’s “most interactive probably. It‘s like…a fun result…for both of them.” He said that he would probably keep most of the attractions that the Picnic already has, “…a lot of them are really fun,” but would like to include more advertising “…so more people know. So there are more kids here.” If he can, he will definitely help out next year.
The S.O.C. (Social Organization Committee) as a whole, plans the Parish Picnic. “We decide as a committee…it’s a group effort. Father Bill attends every meeting…one of the priests do…so they can kind of give us their feedback, too, so they have their hands in it, and make sure we don’t go off the deep end somewhere. It‘s really a group effort,” said Erin McAndrews, who volunteers with S.O.C., “The S.O.C. committee has a meeting at the end of the previous year, and we come up with what we’d like to do for the next year, and have to apply for the dates and the spaces in the school and stuff.” “It’s a group thing…there’s no…person that tells us what we do,” said McAndrews. According to her, S.O.C. is comprised of “…couples. We try to get as many couples as we can…it’s usually like 30 people…like between 15 and 20 couples. It’s a nice-sized group, and it’s a lot of fun.” “We use Rob who works with the Youth Ministry…we just ask him to help us coordinate it, and then the kids earn service hours,” said McAndrews. “It’s always S.O.C. It’s the people that are finishing their commitment, and the new ones coming on, so you have a couple extra. So, it’s always S.O.C. that runs it,” said Bridget Ziebka, who has been with St. James for the past 30 years, and who volunteered with S.O.C. about 4 years ago.
According to McAndrews, it’s a free picnic that has been taking place for the past 25-30 years, “It’s all free…we do fundraisers throughout the year to help pay for it.” S.O.C.’s main purpose is to raise funds for the Parish Picnic. “We support it throughout the year with different events that we have like as movie night, and Mardi Gras, and the Haunted House,” said McAndrews, “[the process of fundraising is] quite extensive.” The Parish Picnic was originally held at St. Viator High School. It was then moved to St. James Parish one year, due to rain, and has remained there ever since, said Ziebka, “All of S.O.C. plans it…usually what they do is they pass off…we’ll have certain people on prizes…certain people on games…certain people serving the food…someone’s job is to run the food in from the grill to in here…so, they assign the jobs. They do get the…volunteers, so someone’s in charge of making sure they’re here.” “The S.O.C. is responsible for everything to do with the picnic. So, we hire all the people, we get our volunteers from the Youth Ministry, which is really nice…they’ve been really helpful. We just run the whole event,” said Kathy Barton, who is currently in her third (and final) year on S.O.C. Barton is responsible for games this year.
“We partnered with Misión Juan Diego a couple years back, and that’s when they started bringing tacos,” said Ziebka. “Misión [Juan Diego] helps us with the food, and the Knights [of Columbus] help with the hot dogs,” said McAndrews, “We work as a big group; we have to coordinate with Misión San Juan Diego, and make sure that they have enough food, and that we know how many people they’re bringing…it just is a big huge group effort from a bunch of different committees.” “We partner with Misión San Juan Diego, and they bring in their Mexican food, which our people love, and their people come and they enjoy our hot dogs and potato chips,” said Barton. “The Picnic is just a community event that we offer to Misión Juan Diego and our Parish members,” said McAndrews. “We always have the Mexican food, and then we have the hot dogs and chips, and then I think people love the live music, Misión San Juan Diego raffles off a car,” said Barton. According to Ziebka, “…partnering with Misión San Juan…” and “…moving [the Picnic] back to our Parish, not at Viator, are the biggest changes.”
“Usually it’s people with kids that come,” said McAndrews, who said that the Parish Picnic’s main audience is families. There were many attractions at this year’s Parish Picnic. “Misión is offering a car as a raffle prize, and I think everyone likes to come for the food…the good Mexican food,” said McAndrews, “This year we added face painting and a balloon artist, and I think that was a good addition.” “I think people always appreciate the food. The fact that it’s free…I think that’s a really nice thing,” said Barton. “There’s always games, there’s always food,” said Ziebka, “There’s just basic prizes outside for all the little games…there’s a raffle…there’s a cash raffle…the games are always the big attraction for the kids. The food is the big attraction for all the adults.” “We do the 50-50 raffle, which people like. And then they like the games,” said Barton, “This year, we added a balloon artist…I thought that was nice. And our face painter…someone on the S.O.C. committee is an artist, so she did some pretty cool face painting.” “If you buy a raffle ticket…however much money we collect, we split it with the winner, so half of it goes to the Parish and half of it goes to the winner,” said Barton.
Kevin Houlihan, who has been with St. James for 25 years, was attracted by the school, “I thought it was very welcoming and a nice place to be…go to church.” He has been coming to the Parish Picnic for 10-15 years, and thinks that the biggest attractions are the water balloons or dunk tank, “there’s always good food…good people to talk to.” His girlfriend, Alicia Knox, grew up Catholic, and went with Houlihan’s family to masses and gatherings. She said that she was attracted to St. James because “it’s a beautiful church and beautiful neighborhood,” and found out about the Parish Picnic “through the family…through the bulletins that we get…they advertise through that.” This is her first year at the Picnic, and she thinks that the biggest attractions will be the raffle and the games. Houlihan will definitely be coming to next year’s Picnic, and will definitely tell his friends about it. Knox said that, “We live in the neighborhood, so it’s fun to get out.” “Thanks for throwing the Picnic, and Happy Retirement to Father Bill,” said Houlihan.
“It’s very nice. It’s a great event; they all love it,” said Ziebka, who plans to attend every year, as long as she is able to, “I think they do a great job.” “Each Committee kind of probably changes it to who’s in charge,” said Ziebka. “Usually, we just kind of do what we have been doing because it works, and people really enjoy it. So, I don’t know what will change,” said Barton.