By Marianne Mueller
Picnics at Trask Bridge have been a family tradition since the last Thursday of August 1911. The event was originally billed as “A one-day agricultural extravaganza.”
The picnics rich history states that the Burritt Grange No. 1759 was organized by State Deputy Frank Johns of Maple Grove Grange. At the time of the first picnic Mr. Walter Potter headed the Program and Concession Committee. The Potter family is greatly credited for their work with the annual picnic which became widely known as “The Worlds Largest Farm Picnic” in a few years. “Picnic Potter” became a slogan for summer activities in the Grange and even in surrounding areas.
In 1911 a 15-piece Davis Concert Band was at the first picnic. Fifty of these fairs have been held. During WWII they were discontinued because of food shortages and gas rationing. In addition the highway was under construction making it impossible to get to the picnic grounds. All proceeds from a picnic held during WWI were given to the Red Cross. With one exception each picnic had been held in Andrews Grove on Route 70, North West of Rockford.
By 1922 the Grange was planning to build a hall and profits for the picnics for the next several years went into the building fund. This dream happened and the hall was built. Years later the Grange’s home caught fire and had to be rebuilt. Profits from numerous picnics were needed to help pay for it. An addition was put on furnishing a larger floor and stage area in the main room. More improvements were made on the house as well.
The Trask Bridge picnics have offered various attractions. Records show that Horse Polo tournaments, plowing matches, automobile shows, and style show were among picnic action. Women’s contests were nail driving, bundle typing and more. A machinery exhibit has grown from horse drawn pieces to machinery valued at many thousands of dollars.
Of course it was realized that the best part was picnic food and with ever growing crowds home cooked foods were prohibited and vendors came in.
Honoring historical facts while incorporating modern day activities 2019 Chair, Jamie Christiansen and an all-volunteer team are revisiting this Trask Bridge Picnic. All are invited to take part in a day of pure family fun on Sunday, Sept. 8 from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. at the Burritt Township Hall, 8284 Trask Bridge Road, Ill. Route 70) Rockford.
Sierra Revell will be opening with the National Anthem at 11:20 a.m. Local dancers from Pecatonica Middle School are set to follow.
A variety of activities include live entertainment provided by Kevin Burns of Good Vibrations, and “Galaxy.” More fun comes in the form of 50/50 and other raffles.
Magical splendor promises to come to life at the hands of the talented magician Johnny Silver. See a special presentation by Hoo Haven who will be featuring an owl and a hawk.
Keeping up with old time traditions one family is hosting a plow contest. Certain to attract great attention are an antique tractor and vehicle display. A cake walk will be run by members of Burritt Church from noon to 2 p.m.
Children have an opportunity to play in a bounce house. Pony rides, a petting zoo, face painting done by a Girl Scout Troop 31 of Pecatonica and a craft table where Grandparents are at the heart of the action to honor and celebrate Grandparents day add extra fun options for young and young at heart. Visit unique animals at a petting zoo, run under the direction of a 4-H Club group.
Wood Fire pizza and a grill truck will be offering a nice selection of foods. The grill truck plans to have picnic basics such as hot dogs, and burgers. Ice cream can be purchased from a second 4-H group.
As a special bonus local author, Jim Sacia will be on hand to sign his book, “Not in My Wildest Dreams: Memories of a Veteran Agent.” Mr. Sacia is a strong supporter of Burritt Township.
Winnebago County is bringing out a command vehicle.
Sponsorships and partnerships show strong support of this event as it continues to grow.
“This event has mushroomed into an amazing roadside attraction for country and city people, my goal is to bring families and kids out to keep this tradition alive. We guarantee a family fun day in the country “Christiansen said. She adds, “I am blessed to be in the company of so many who have helped to organize this picnic for many years.”
Parking and admission are free along with a chance to create new family memories at a popular old fashion hot spot.

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