I started the summer with the best of intentions to focus on my project about St. Marie and the Legend of the Cross and to take a break from blogging.

But I was concerned the newspaper would regurgitate some of the past errors about Princeton’s history from the historical society in its 175th anniversary coverage in July that would force me to resurrect the Fact Check. Fortunately, the special anniversary section barely touched on the early days of our community and the only blog I prepared was the recap that I plan to post later today.

My relief was short-lived, however. After I picked up a copy of the Princeton Times-Republic this week to check out the anniversary coverage, I noticed another article announcing “St. John Baptist Catholic Church will hold their 118th picnic and car show on Sunday, August 20.”

Roused from my summer slumber, this will be my third annual correction of the newspaper’s picnic history.

The paper in 2021 said St. John’s was holding its “116th annual picnic.” In 2022 the paper called it the “117th annual picnic.” I asked the editor for corrections each time. Last year I included pdfs of various newspaper articles from the past showing the beloved picnic’s history as well as a grammar lesson on the meaning of the word “annual.”

The newspaper refused to correct its errors. (Search “St. John’s Picnic” on this site to read the previous two Fact Checks.)

Here are the facts the Berlin journalists choose to ignore:

  • St. John’s held its first picnic in 1903.
  • St. John’s held another picnic that the newspaper called the “second annual” in 1904.
  • To date, no records have been found that a picnic was held in 1905.
  • St. John’s held another picnic in 1906 and the newspaper in 1914 advertised St. John’s ninth annual picnic, reflecting the “annual” picnic had restarted in 1906. The picnic continued through 1947. The newspaper reported on the picnic each year.
  • St. John’s did not hold a picnic from 1948-1955, per parish minutes, older living parishioners and newspaper reports.
  • St. John’s, under the leadership of Father Joseph Cieciorka, resurrected the picnic in 1956 and has held it annually since then. It is advertised as the oldest church picnic in the state.

Math was never my favorite subject, but the nuns taught me well enough to know the 2023 gathering is not the 118th picnic. To recap, the picnic started in 1903 and continued in 1904 (two years), apparently was not held in 1905, resumed in 1906 and continued through 1947 (41 years), resumed in 1956 and has continued through 2023 (67 years).

So, when the pork chops are served, the cornhole champions crowned and raffle winners announced August 20, St. John’s will be celebrating its 67th consecutive and 110th picnic, and the 120th anniversary of the picnic’s founding in 1903.

The newspaper covered the annual picnic each summer but avoided assigning it a label such as the “25th annual” or “40th picnic” throughout the 20th century. In 2005, however, it made the crucial mistake of saying the picnic was celebrating its 100th anniversary. The newspaper has repeated its faulty math/grammar error every year since that time, adding a layer of misinformation each time and ignoring requests for corrections.

I will submit another correction request this year.

The newspaper did make a small concession to historical accuracy this year. At least the writer didn’t call it the 118th “annual” picnic! Last year’s grammar lesson might have worked. Maybe the newspaper will sharpen its math skills by next year if the reorganized parish, now operating as part of a pastorate based in Berlin, continues the annual homecoming picnic.

I really don’t want to do “Fact Check: St. John’s Picnic 4.0.”

Thank you for reading and caring about local history.

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