- Grant Recipient
- 78 Clinton Street, Saranac, NY
- 44.609394, -73.80173
Town of Saranac
The Redford Picnic is a unique tradition which brings families and friends of the Redford area together. Families have been doing this annually for more than 162 years. The carousel has been used at the picnic since at least 1925 and is used for that day only.
The first picnic was held in 1855 to celebrate the dedication of the Church of the Assumption. The History of Clinton and Franklin Counties, New York (1880) by Duane Hamilton Hurd states that the Catholic community in Redford began small, and instead of being allowed to use the school-house for Mass, they had to build their own chapel. In 1853, Oblate Fathers came from Plattsburgh and took over the Redford mission, and one of their goals for the community was to build a larger church. At that point in time, the congregation had outgrown the small chapel and were in need of a larger space. This new building was to go on a lot of land adjacent to the chapel, and the benediction of the new church was held on August 15, 1855.
Each year after the initial picnic, Redford and the surrounding community have gathered to celebrate the anniversary of their church and the Assumption of Mary, for which the church is named. An article from the Plattsburgh Sentinel on September 21, 1888 states that at one of the earlier picnics there was a band, assorted foods such as apples, peanuts, and candy, cigars, and soda. Another article from the Plattsburgh Daily Press on August 7, 1896 notes similar attractions, but since it was the 40th annual picnic, also said to be “prepared this year to celebrate [the anniversary] with more attractions and amusements than ever.” By 1927, the same newspaper reported on August 16th that more than 3,000 people had attended the picnic. The article also touched on how the gathering has evolved over time, noting that “instead of horses being tied to hitching posts there were hundreds of cars parked along the highway.” That same year was also the first mention of the carousel being used, which, according to a Press-Republican article from August 14, 1978, was “said to be the oldest operative carousel in North America.”
The Redford Picnic was observed by Marjorie Lansing Porter in 1945 and published in the New York Folklore Quarterly (vol. II, no. 3, Aug. 1946). Essentially an outsider to the community that had gathered, Porter stated that she felt as if she was “intruding at a big family celebration” as she watched “old friends meet and catch up on their family news.” She also noted, however, that it was still a place for everyone, whether they were children, parents, or members of the religious community. That feeling of camaraderie was expressed again in a Press-Republic article from August 20, 1990, when a 77 year old woman who been attending the picnic since she was young described it as “the biggest social event” at the time. She recalled getting up early in the morning, attending Mass, and then spending all day at the picnic, continuing to attend much later in life “for the food, music, and good times.”