FLUSH — At first glance Wednesday night, it was obvious the annual Flush Picnic had drawn a crowd, lining up near the towering old Catholic church for which the town is known.
But drawing closer to the event, more cars became visible, then more cars. And the already lengthy food line was not getting shorter, but longer. Then it hit: this wasn’t some run-of-the-mill picnic.
A “town” consisting only of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, built in 1910, one or two surrounding buildings and a cemetery across the road suddenly was crowded with more than 1,000 people.
“It’s always been a tradition since it started,” picnic co-chair Jackie McCormick said in the middle of a very busy kitchen at the community center, where the meal is served. “The weather has been great tonight, and it’s our big fundraiser of the year for our church.”
It was a perfect night for a picnic.
The skies were blue, the high was 80 degrees, and the sun glazed the surrounding green trees, cornfields and grasslands as it began to rest over the horizon.
Old-fashioned carnival games, live acoustic bands that played bluegrass, gospel and traditional country songs and families young and old completed a scene that was both classic Americana and purely Kansas.
Julie Weigel of Manhattan came to the picnic for her first time ever with her husband and said the cool temperatures were too good to pass up.
“We’d heard about it everywhere,” she said. “And every year we’ve said we’d go. Well, this year (the weather) is just too nice at the end of July for us not to go.”
Marilyn Whitley and her husband, Jim Morril, also of Manhattan, were at the picnic for the first time in nearly 30 years.
Married for just 2 1/2 years, they have been life-long friends. After both of their spouses passed away, they connected and eventually tied the knot.
“You never know how things will turn out,” Whitley said.
The big draw, though, for any picnic is the food, and Flush has earned its reputation for giving people a reason to visit since the event began in 1932 — even if it’s an hour-plus wait in line.
The meal is prepared by parishioners and served in the community center, St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, and consists of two pieces of fried chicken along with a vast variety of homemade pies, green beans and mashed potatoes with gravy. Coleslaw, dinner rolls, cottage cheese and tomatoes are served family style at the table.
The meal costs $7, including water, tea or coffee.
McCormick said the chicken – bought in bulk from Ray’s Apple Market in Manhattan – is prepared at 7 a.m. at Rock Creek High School, which is just down the road of Flush, and placed in ovens at the church in the early afternoon.
More than 100 church families help or donate food for he picnic, said McCormick, who co-chaired with Nancy Leiker this year.
Each family is asked to provide three pies and two pounds of cabbage.
Last year McCormick estimated more than 1,200 people were served.
She said it’s likely that number was exceeded or at least reached last night.
By 7 p.m. organizers announced that each person would get only one piece of chicken and the price would be reduced to $6.
Nobody left the line.