If you ever wanted to sample the world-famous dressing at the St. Leo's Chicken Dinner and Church Picnic, Saturday is your last chance.
The church on St. Leo's Road in Randolph County, about 8 miles south of Ruma, will close after the first of the year so the annual picnic, established in 1927, will disappear as well, said Lola Depper, a longtime member and one of the church ladies who helps prepare the meal.
Actually she is on the disabled list this year as she recovers from shoulder surgery, but she still can brag.
"Our dressing is fabulous, which we are well-known for," she said.
They also have bingo, for quilts and cash, a raffle and their fried chicken dinner with mashed potatoes, green beans, vegetables and dessert, if you got room for it, she said.
"It's a sad thing for everybody," Depper said about the church closing. "Of course we don't have as many families as we used to. But I think it's the shortage of priests as much as anything."
The men of the church got together Wednesday night for the last time in the annual ritual to set up stands for the picnic.
During the week the women started preparing the dressing by opening 140 loaves of bread and laying out the slices to dry, Depper said. Every day, someone would come and flip the slices over so they would dry evenly.
On Saturday morning, the women will break the slices into crumbs, put in bags, add the special ingredients and mix it up.
St. Leo's was established in 1892 as a mission church of St. Joseph's in Prairie du Rocher. St. Leo's got a resident pastor in 1907 but in 1961 it reverted to a mission church sharing a pastor with St. Joseph's.
"Of course we think our meals are the best," she said. "Everything is homemade except the chickens."
Judge for yourself. But you only have one chance. The picnic opens at 3:30 in the afternoon with Mass at 4.
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