Hometown Ideas · New Brunswick

Exploring History at the Johnville Picnic, New Brunswick

New Brunswick Day weekend has come and gone – here’s the story of how I spent a memorable weekend exploring my family’s historical roots in Canada’s Picture Province.

The road to Johnville, New Brunswick – home of our longest running church picnic and the Feeney family.

New Brunswick Day takes place each year on the first Monday of August. It provides a chance to enjoy a long weekend during one of the best months in Atlantic Canada. This year the weather cooperated perfectly; residents and visitors of the Picture-Province were treated to clear sunny skies and hot temperatures perfect for a day in the water.

My long- weekend was spent with family and friends. I explored the longest-running church festival in New Brunswick, spent a day out at the family farm with relatives from near and far, and enjoyed a quiet birthday party at a friend’s cottage. Not bad for one weekend!

Moose mountain in the distance

The Johnville picnic was surely a  highlight of my weekend. It is the oldest church gathering in New Brunswick and has been held at the St. John the Evangelist Church since 1878. My family has strong roots in New Brunswick and this festival can be directly linked to my ancestors, who arrived from Ireland over 100 years ago to cultivate the fields of Central New Brunswick.

We started the afternoon off by taking a scenic drive through the countryside. Since my parents grew up in the area, they maintained an ongoing commentary of “I used to pick potatoes in that field there.” “We’d pick berries over there.” and “That was our favourite sliding hill as kids.”. Life along these hilly country roads was quite different before video games and cell phones.

The view of Johnville from above
Tractors on display at the 134th Johnville picnic

When we arrived the picnic was well underway. The atmosphere was, as expected, very friendly and positive. Everyone seemed to know everyone – kids played together at a dunk tank and inflatable water slides; tractors and engines were on display; historical information was made freely available inside one of the tents where arts; and crafts were for sale.  I perused a number of books and photos while my father pointed out the most pertinent facts and photos.

The food was served inside the church basement – which provided a chance to seek shelter from the sun and enjoy salads, bread, meats, and (of course) pie. It was your typical New Brunswick fare complete with Lady Ashburn pickles, pickled beets, and cranberries – those homey extras that we’ve all come to love.

Photos of family members at the Johnville picnic
The St. John the Evangelist church in Johnville

We stayed for a bit of the entertainment, in the form of traditional Irish songs, before calling it a day. All-in-all the picnic was a unique experience. I reunited with family members while immersing in the history, culture, and cuisine of the place where my family takes root. A very appropriate start to a thoroughly enjoyable New Brunswick Day weekend.

And what day trip to Carleton county is complete without a stop at the Covered Bridge Chip Factory? We had to try the Lobster, Red and White, and (my favourite) Ketchup chips. Delicious!

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Covered Bridge chip factory, Hartland, New Brunswick
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