‘Bet you never even heard of Dinner on the Ground. Sadly, it has been called a fading tradition. It seems these days I look up and things I thought would always be there are gone or leaving. Dinner on the Ground is one of them.
But for now they are still with us. For many years it has been the tradition of southern, country churches to have a week-long revival that ended on Sunday with a great celebration and homecoming.
Folks came from everywhere for this big feast. Dinner on the Ground only happens in the fall and often we attended several special events throughout Eastern North Carolina: Macedonia, Piney Grove, Maple Grove and Smithwick’s Creek Primitive Baptist.
My favorite of the foods was fried peach jacks, and I knew right where to find them. Fannie H.* and Miss Mintie both made wonderful jacks. Miss Mintie’s daughter-in-law Charlotte, keeps up the tradition.
One year someone actually made homemade moon pies. You could find collard greens galore, Brunswick stew, cornbread, fried chicken, banana sandwiches (for the children), sweet potato pies, barbecue, succotash, all kinds of pickles and more cakes than have ever been in one place. Lots of sweet tea is always served.
There will be much declaring and reckoning as in “I declare it is hot and I reckon it was cooler last year.” “Bless his heart” will be heard many times.
After church is over folks rush out and spread the feast on a table made of chicken wire that is strung between tall oak trees. If the trees aren’t positioned just right, then a tractor will do just fine. There are often two or three tables made of chicken wire that are each a block long. Every family spreads a tablecloth over a spot (same spot every year) and puts the food out. Then folks graze up and down the table, visiting and eating.
I am glad to have enjoyed these wonderful events. I am also happy to live in the “country” where we love and linger with our traditions. The church of my youth still has Dinner on the Ground; and for that I am very happy.
All of the photos were taken at the same church, almost sixty years apart. Photo at right is my dad Ops, taken in 1948 or ’49, at Macedonia’s Dinner on the Ground, after all the food was taken away.
That is my mother Chloe loading the car. Photo below is my brother John and me (with the very short skirt). Maybe some traditions will stick around.
(Photo credit: Barney Conway, Jr. for the color photos. I figure Barney’s dad took the old black and whites.)
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