Our History

Our Story

A Community Tradition

The St. Patrick’s Irish Picnic began in 1854 when the local McEwen community built a church and decided to create a fundraiser to gather funds for a new church bell.

The picnic was such a success in the community that the town decided to make this an annual event to gather the community.

During the 1800s, Irish immigrants working to build the railroad system across Tennessee were encouraged to settle in McEwen, and St. Patrick’s church was built for them in 1849.

In 1856 St. Patrick’s School was opened and the school was operated by a lay staff until 1925 when the Sisters of Mercy were asked to help administer and teach. In 1937, the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia arrived and have been running the school since. 

Our picnic grounds and barbecue pits are a permanent installation in McEwen. The pits were increased in ’72 to accommodate the growing number of attendees at our annual Irish Picnic.

In 1988, the Guinness Book of World Records listed the Irish Picnic as the “World’s Largest Outdoor Barbecue”. The record-setting Picnic featured the cooking of 16,000 pounds of pork and 3,000 chicken halves and saw an influx of more than 25,000 visitors.

This event has always been a fundraising event for the local St. Patrick’s School. But it is so much more than that. 

This event is a homecoming for people who grew up attending the picnic each year with their family. They return to volunteer their time to barbecue the chicken and pork, beautify the picnic grounds, bottle the secret  barbecue sauce, and reconnect with the community. This is a parish and community event. We welcome people from all walks of life: Methodist, Baptist, Lutheran, Catholics alike. For one weekend, they all come together to give back to the community.

Guinness Book of World Records Irish Picnic Largest Pork Barbecue July 1986


Finger Lickin’ Good

Our pork barbecue shoulders are famously good. Smoked over pits with tender loving care by our local community, you can order it by the pound or in a sandwich. Don’t forget the secret sauce!!


Friday Only

You’ll want to show up early on Friday to grab these before they’re gone. This Irish Picnic staple sells out faster than you can say Luck of the Irish! On sale from 11 am to 4 pm until they’re gone. 


Game Booths & Activities

There is something for everyone! Games for toddlers on up to entertain and delight. Each booth offers a variety of prizes and is staffed by a parent from the school or local community member going back generations.


Food Booths

Barbecue not your thing? No problem. We have fried chicken, burgers, nachos, hot dogs, funnel cake, drink booths, ice cream and other sweet treats to cool you down.


Welcome Home

The most important and noteworthy success of the 167 years of the Irish Picnic: The Community. This event serves as both a fundraiser for the local school and a homecoming event for those who grew up in our community. 


…and Dancing!

What would a Tennessee event be without live music?  A variety of bluegrass and local entertainment will be on the music stage. Grab a seat and a bbq sandwich, or a dancing partner and show us your moves!









The Irish Picnic in the Media:

Hours of Operation

FRIDAY, JULY 28, 2023
5:00 pm - 11:00 pm

10:00 am - 11:00 pm

FREE Admission and Parking!

Advertising opportunities available at different price levels!  Contact us for details.

All proceeds benefit St. Patrick School.

Advertising opportunities available.

Drop Us a Line

Don't be shy. Let us know if you have any questions!

Event Location

175 St. Patrick's Street
McEwen, TN 37101

Questions? Please Email
[email protected]