Although Jarrett Howe lives in New York City, he makes sure to schedule a visit back to his hometown of Ellington every year during the first week of August.
“The (Ellington) Town Picnic is like a family reunion,” Howe said. “People travel back every year from across the country because they know when the picnic is going to happen and know they will have an opportunity to reunite with friends and family.”
For many, the tradition of attending the Ellington Town Picnic goes back generations and features strong family roots.
In 1937, Fred Shelters’ parents met at the town picnic while his father was playing on the Ellington Town Baseball Team. After a quick romance, they married the next spring and celebrated the next town picnic as husband and wife.
Growing up, Shelters’ parents shared their picnic memories with him and his siblings, memories Shelters passed on to his children, grandchildren and now great-grandchildren.
“(Our family) has been blessed and our legacy all started with the town picnic,” Shelters said.
Since the first picnic in 1905 until now, the picnic has evolved to keep up with the interests of the community. Out of respect for the servicemen and women, picnics were not held during the years the United States was involved in World War I and II.
What was once a mid-afternoon picnic where families arrived by horse and buggy with a dish to pass, has turned into a three-day event featuring live music, contests, a parade and more, while keeping the importance of community at the forefront.
“Ellington is a special place,” Howe said. “(This picnic) is a tradition that has been going on for over 100 years, making it the longest running town picnic in the country.”
The 106th Ellington Town Picnic will be held August 3-5. For a schedule of events, visit ellingtontownpicnic.org.
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