The pandemic took the wind out of everyone’s sails this year. This was especially true for the famous St. Jerome Fancy Farm Picnic, which only saw a fraction of its usual crowd. However, event organizers, workers, and attendees were not discouraged, and felt it went as expected.
The event’s cochairman, Andy Hayden, said he and other organizers anticipated the low turnout and planned accordingly.
On a typical year, they would serve pork and mutton sandwiches, but they decided meat would only be sold by the pound this year to discourage people from congregating and potentially spreading COVID-19. It was a primary concern for the organizers that the event operated safely with proper social distancing and masks.
They also opened a second meat stand to give the workers more space.
“We wanted people to do their thing — buy raffle tickets, go home and enjoy their meat,” he said.
Another measure taken was only having 11,000 pounds of meat to cook, which was a little over half what they would normally have any other year.
Andy Pendel was one of the workers preparing the food Saturday morning and had been a regular at the event for all 58 years of his life. He said Fancy Farm Picnic 2020 pulled in about 10% of the crowd it would on a typical year, and the lack of sandwiches was a big difference for him. However, as far as customers go, he “hadn’t heard any complaints.”
Chris McNiell said that while the food was as good as ever, and locals worked hard to support the church as always, the opportunity to see out-of-towners show up and express interest in the government was a notably missing component.
“Food is the same but nobody came from out of town,” McNiell said. “It’s tough to see this.”
However, despite the turnout, he had every expectation that the Fancy Farm Picnic would never die and return to normal in 2021.
Like McNeill, Hayden said this year certainly looked and felt different. However, he appreciated the amount of support received, and felt the event would be back in force for its 141st year.
“If things are back to normal, we’ll be back to normal,” he said.