Held annually on the first Saturday after Labor day, (September 7, 2019), the Old Goshenhoppen Church in Woxall, Pennsylvania will host its famous Oyster Picnic, a Montgomery County tradition that has been going on for 142 years.
Held in a picnic grove across the street from the church, this event features not only food, but games for children and live music throughout the day. The church hopes that the entertainment will whet people’s appetite for that most luxurious seafood treat— Oysters. The menu includes fried oysters, oyster stew made according to a recipe that has been honed to perfection over the years and raw oysters on the half shell that are opened fresh for each customer. 5,000 oysters in the shell are purchased from a harvester on Delaware Bay the day before the picnic, so the oysters are as fresh as can be. All together over 8,300 oysters are served. Hot dogs, hamburgers, fries, funnel cakes, ice cream and other items are available for those who don’t choose to imbibe oysters. There are will also be Smoked Salmon Sandwiches made with salmon which a church member smokes over an apple wood fire.
The Old Goshenhoppen Oyster Picnic started in 1877 as a fund raiser for the Sunday School. People came from surrounding communities in Montgomery and Bucks counties, and special excursion trains brought people from Philadelphia along the now abandoned Allentown line of the Reading Railroad. Farmers would be waiting with their wagons at Salford Station to carry the rusticators from the city up to the top of the hill where the food would be waiting and a brass band would be playing marches and waltzes. At the end of the day the steam train would return to the station and sound long blasts of its whistle to signal the revelers that it was time to return to the station or risk being stranded in the country.
For those interested in history there is a log building from 1732 that was used as both a church and a schoolhouse by the early settlers. This building will be open for tours and there will be demonstrations of colonial crafts and hearthside cooking in the fireplace.
Old Goshenhoppen Reformed Church was established in 1727 on 38 acres of land that were purchased from the sons of William Penn. The present church building, which was built in 1858, will be open for visitors on the day of the picnic, where you can listen to Old Goshenhoppen’s cherished organ as local organist present “Organ Reflections”.
In addition to the music there are inexpensive games for the children, a large white elephant table, and special items on silent auction. Many people bring lawn chairs and spend the whole afternoon eating, listening to the music, and just relaxing in the shade of the trees in this old picnic grove.
Woxall is located between Harleysville and Sumneytown. At the junction of routes 63 and 563, turn south on Old Skippack Road. In one mile you will see a sign for the church on the right. For more information or directions call the church at 610-287-9781.
Our Oyster Picnic appeared in an article published in the Philadelphia Inquirer on Sunday, September 20, 2009 entitled Oysters, 132 years running by Rick Nichols, Inquirer Food Columnist