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Kelly’s Cross Tea Party celebrates its 130th anniversary

Organizers of the Kelly’s Cross Tea Party/Picnic discuss plans for the Saturday, July 13, event over a cup of tea. From left are Jackie Molyneaux, Gavin Toole, Raeona Lacey and Joe Matters.
Organizers of the Kelly’s Cross Tea Party/Picnic discuss plans for the Saturday, July 13, event over a cup of tea. From left are Jackie Molyneaux, Gavin Toole, Raeona Lacey and Joe Matters. - Sally Cole

Community is invited to the picnic on July 13


Gavin Toole’s face lights up as he talks about the Kelly’s Cross Tea Party.

He’s been a part of it for over 80 years.

“We used to go by horse and buggy. Now we come by automobile,” says the 94-year-old South Melville man of the St. Joseph’s Parish fundraiser which celebrates its 130th anniversary on Saturday, July 13, at St. Joseph’s Church in Kelly's Cross.

The tea party was always the highlight of summer for his family.

“It was the day that everybody celebrated. There was always a little bit of elbow-bending, with some enjoying it more than others,” laughs Toole, referring to the alcohol that would be consumed at the event.

In the earlier years, there would be different games of chance for the adults.

“I remember old Fred Matters spinning the horse wheel. He would shout out, ‘This way, ladies and gentlemen, lay down your dimes and pick up your dollars,’” says Toole.

He watched the action from the bingo table, which he operated for 40 years.

As part of his volunteer schedule he would always budget time for the cake auction, where he would bid on his wife Elaine’s creations.

But, always, competition was stiff.

“Once I paid $150 for a cake. And there were other cakes that went for much higher,” says Toole, who also looked forward to the afternoon meal.

Just the facts

  • Kelly’s Cross Tea Party started in 1889 as a fundraiser for St. Joseph’s Church, which had burned down in a fire. 
  • Over the years, it evolved into the Kelly’s Cross Picnic.
  • This year’s event is Saturday, July 13, at St. Joseph’s Church, Kelly’s Cross.
  • A cold plate dinner is available for pick up between 3:30 and 5:30 p.m. at St. Joseph’s Parish Hall, Kelly’s Cross. The cost is $15.

Every year, the women of the parish would be responsible for cooking a chicken at home and bringing it to the church, along with a big basket of food.

“You planned to do nothing else on the day of the tea because you were put to work, serving supper. Afterwards I always enjoyed the dance,” says Frances Trainor, a Kelly’s Cross native who now lives in Albany.

As a teenager Raeona Lacey enjoyed watching the parish women carrying out heaping plates of food from the kitchen. 

“I wanted to be a waitress. But I was always given the job of working the fish pond. So, when I finally got the job, I thought I was one of the big girls.”

Today the meal, which has evolved into a ham and beef cold plate with homemade rolls served with carrot cake, for dessert, continues to be a hit. Also, for the first time this year, it will be a take-out meal with the option to enjoy it inside the Kelly’s Cross Community Centre.

Kellys Cross church.
Kellys Cross church.

There are other changes as well.

“In the past few years, we’ve been calling it the Kelly’s Cross Picnic. And we’d like to extend the invitation to people in the area because it’s a community picnic,” says Jackie Molyneaux, chairwoman of the organizing committee.

It’s a fundraiser to help the parish keep the church building going.

“For us, this is our community, our centre, the place where we socialize. And we want to include everyone.”

The event starts at 2 p.m. with a yard sale. Then at 3 p.m., entertainers will take their places in the gazebo. The musical lineup includes, among others, Roy MacCaull and Friends, Ashley and Jimmy Gordon, Peter Bevan Baker and a guest step dancer. 

There are also bouncy castles and other activities for the children.

At 3:30 p.m., the cold plate dinner will be available for pick-up at St. Joseph’s Parish Hall.

“We’re inviting people to come in, take their plate and we’ll serve tea and coffee. We’re making a few extra meals so if you don’t have a ticket or you haven’t called us, please come and enjoy the day.”


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