CHESTER TOWNSHIP — The 155th annual Collett-McKay Picnic was once again held on the dedicated family picnic grounds on Gurneyville Road in Chester Township.
Descendants of these two families have been meeting since 1866. Four Colletts married four McKays in the mid-1800s. They started the picnic the year after the Civil War ended, and have been meeting ever since.
Although the weather was perfect for this year’s picnic, fewer people than ever returned for the annual event. The world has been caught up in a pandemic of a virus that can cause COVID-19 that resulted in many family members staying home this year.
At this year’s picnic, 57 hearty souls came to continue the tradition. Susan Doster led a silent blessing, following the Quaker tradition. The Beers, several McKays, and the Doster/Glaze families enjoyed their lunches at the picnic grounds while many of the Hackneys and others stopped in to visit.
Others came to sign the Registry of Attendance and say a quick, “Hello.”
The traditional long tables of shared picnic foods, heaped with a variety of “epicurean delights,” were noticeably missing. One lad said, “The food was good, Mom, but I missed all of the variety!”
The multiple tables with family history items — photographs of picnics past, genealogy records, the blueprint of the family tree — were also absent this year.
Rosalie McKay Beers brought framed photographs from the 1929 and 1936 picnics and framed copies of several articles of picnics past. The traditional wooden table attached to the big Maple tree holding the Collett-McKay Picnic Registry was in its place where attendees could come one by one and sign their names as has been done here for over 100 years.
Cousins came from across the country again this year: Kim Beckett Price (Hackney) from Utah with her family; Brendan Bogan from Nevada; Michael MacKay from Virginia; Susan Doster from Indiana; David Doster from Michigan; Krystal Billingsley and her family from Tennessee.
The oldest in attendance was John Beers, 85, husband of Rosalie McKay Beers. The youngest was Korbin Billingsley, age 4, or perhaps it was Cody and Kim St. John’s baby due in November? Jim Hackney came this year, returning after about 40 years.
As attendees gathered, they paused to remember some of those who are no longer with us, including D. Howard Doster who had served as the family recorder for the picnic. Each year he anticipated the annual event with excitement in getting to see cousins again.
He then enjoyed every minute of the day talking with everyone, reminiscing, and sharing family history together. He was always the last to leave the picnic grounds.
He will be sorely missed as he had an impeccable memory and a passion for family history.
Picnic participants are looking forward to the 2021 picnic when they hope to once again see 200 to 300 cousins travel from near and far to sit together beneath the Maple and Oak trees in southwest Ohio.
While this was an unusual year, it was good to once again to come to the Collett-McKay Picnic on the second Saturday in August. As Esther U. Doster said, “We don’t miss Picnic.”