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55th Annual Mecklenburg Picnic

By June 19, 2012December 16th, 2014Family, Travel, Weekend


We are back from a whirlwind weekend in Minnesota for the annual Mecklenburg family picnic (that I shamefully haven’t attended in nearly 20 years)! My mom’s side of the family is huge, so while its difficult to keep up with everyone, I definitely try to take advantage of every opportunity I can find to see everyone. It’s definitely worth the long drive!


We assembled in Sleepy Eye, MN in a gorgeous park overlooking the lake. The showcase of this year’s picnic was the kraut competition. I toiled for weeks making a recipe, but at the last-minute, didn’t think I had it far enough along to submit, so I was on the sidelines as Neil volunteered to judge the entries.



As you can see, he took it very seriously, carefully and thoroughly sampling each submission. Someone even made kraut cupcakes. I gave them a pass, but Neil said they tasted a lot like chocolate zucchini muffins. Maybe next year…


At the end, Neil ironically selected my Auntie Paula’s recipe, which was a slight spin on my grandmother’s secret recipe, which he had never gotten the chance to try before she got sick and passed away. I think she’d be happy knowing I married someone who loved her kraut as much as I do.



I think I ate my weight in kraut, but it was so worth it. After first lunch (yes, we eat more than one meal), we slumped in lawn chairs as the more ambitious among us played lawn games. We also took some family pictures:

Oldest first:


The kids (signature move):


The grandkids:


Our second meal was wurst, venison and regular hot dogs. My uncle brought a hot dog steamer, which apparently could hold over 100 hot dogs.


Needless to say, around this crowd, there was no shortage of grotesque, highly reaching euphemisms. Weiner dam? Definitely an interesting marvel in food technology…


We spent the rest of the evening at the farm, talking and snacking into the wee hours of the morning. Part of our time was spent sorting ¬†though the various piles of my grandparents’ belongings to pack up to take home with us. It was hard not to throw in more than I know our house could reasonably handle, so I focused on a few small pieces and the furniture I couldn’t bear to see go to auction. It was one of the most heart-wrenching things I can honestly say I’ve ever done. I know they are merely “things,” but how do you let your grandmother’s rosaries go to auction? Her wedding cake topper? They mean nothing to anyone else, but everything to us. I think I now understand why she gave us so much while she was living. It was so much easier.



In the end, after many tears, we packed up her kitchen table + buffet (a wedding gift from my great-grandmother), the stereo (that my grandpa built from scratch), the bar room pull-out couch and side table, a bottle opener from the garage, jewelry, book ends, canning jars, wedding cake topper, and ceramic cat. Some of the items probably seem silly, but I consciously picked something from each room. Enough to leave a mark on our house without becoming an overwhelming shrine. I never thought I’ say this, but I think our house is FULL!¬†Pictures to come!


Do you attend family reunions? Is there a signature dish or tradition that is a must-have at every family gathering?