Written by R. Lawrence Hicks, 32°, MSA, Past Sovereign Prince – DeJoinville Council Princes of Jerusalem, Valley of Philadelphia

For as long as most can remember, the 16° line has been responsible for the Annual Valley of Philadelphia Family Picnic. This year, the DeJoinville Council of Princes of Jerusalem added a small twist to the annual gathering – a silent auction.

A family picnic is every kind of event all rolled into one. Family Life, of course, because the entire family is invited. Widows are invited as well – usually at no charge or at least greatly reduced costs. Recruiting? Of course! Bring a Brother who has not joined Scottish Rite and let him see how much fun we have. One can even bring non-Masons to see what real fellowship is. The annual picnic has everything but a degree conferral.

Ricardo Vera 32° and daughter Alayana Rose Vera enjoy the playground. Photo credit: Rick Freedman, 33°

To have a great picnic, the most important thing is timing. It is easy to try to set the picnic in the middle of summer, but that can have major drawbacks such as the heat, interference with other summertime events, the heat, parades, weekend travel plans, vacations and, did we mention the heat? By setting the picnic early or late in the summer, severe heat is often avoided.

Ill. Brother Rick Freedman and his wife, Tammy. Photo credit: Rick Freedman, 33°

The second most important issue to address is location. A great venue is a must. Good food and shade/shelter are a must. A swimming pool is a great addition. A venue known for bad food will wreck your event before it even starts. A venue known for good food will boost attendance immediately. One year, the 16° line held the picnic at a venue that allowed us to be inside as well as outside. This worked out perfectly as that was the year it rained, yet we still had a successful indoor/outdoor event.

The Valley of Philadelphia had a live band at our event this year. When selecting a band for an event such as this, one must remember the target age group of the people attending and select a band that caters to the music of their era. Fortunately, the demographic of most Scottish Rite events allows for a cover band to be selected that does not have a comma in their fee structure. Also, the band must realize that they will not be the center of attention. They are there to provide ambiance, not be the focal point. The best way to select a band for a picnic is to visit local wineries or beach-style bars. These bands are usually “laid-back” afternoon acoustic style bands which are perfect for a Scottish Rite picnic.

Cat Moon Daddy plays for the crowd. Photo credit: R. Lawrence Hicks, 32°, MSA

If a venue with a pool can be found, it provides an additional activity for the young and young-at-heart. The last two Valley of Philadelphia picnics were at venues with swimming pools, and they proved to be very popular. Venues such as country clubs are usually perfect for this sort of gathering. If you can plan your gathering for the weekend before the pool normally opens, you may be able to convince the venue to give you exclusive access to the pool area for your event. It allows the venue to do a “test run” with their pool staff and the members cannot complain about being crowded out by visitors.

Finally, the Valley of Philadelphia held a silent auction to support our Almoner’s Fund this year. With the donation of a mere 19 items and less than 60 adults in attendance, we raised right at $1000. This was our first silent auction and first picnic post-pandemic, so we were very pleased with the results. The Sovereign Prince offering to be thrown in the pool fully clothed if the auction raised $1000 or more prompted one new member to donate the last $86 to attain the goal (as shown below).

Scottish Rite Brother R. Lawrence Hicks, 32°, MSA (center) is all smiles after his Brothers had tossed him in the pool.

So, have a picnic! Invite potential candidates. Invite the widows. Invite everyone you can and make it a wonderful kick off to summer or the perfect wind-down going into fall.