Popular St. Patrick Irish Picnic to draw large crowd to small town

Photo: WKRN

MCEWEN, Tenn. (WKRN) – Barbecue chicken, pork shoulders, and a special top secret sauce bring thousands to the little town of McEwen.

This week will be no different as the St. Patrick Irish Picnic kicks off on Friday.

What started as a fundraiser to buy a new church bell has grown to become a food frenzy event that raises almost $100,000 for the Saint Patrick’s Catholic School.

“We will have anywhere from 15,000 to 20,000 people over the weekend, so it more than doubles the population for McEwen,” explained Grey Collier with the St. Patrick’s Irish Picnic.

Joe McGahey has helped to fire the pits for years.

“Everybody shows up, they have for years. They see it as a giving back one way or another, and as far as congregation here, they just love meeting and greeting– and eating of course.”

The shoulders are cooked for at least 24 hours and flipped every eight hours, but some say it’s the secret sauce that has people flocking to the Irish Picnic.

“The Walsh family that’s been with their parish for years. They hold the recipe for the secret sauce, and it’s actually only known to one member of that family at a time. So, it’s passed down from generation to generation,” explained McGahey.

He continued, “ As far as the generations go, these families, they live it, from great-grandparents to grandparents to children. They come here, the children that go to school help to set this picnic up. They care about it as much as their parents and their grandparents before them.”

St. Patrick Irish Picnic starts Friday at 5 p.m. and doesn’t wind down until around 11 p.m. Saturday night.

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