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How to Plan a Picnic for 100: Cookouts for a Crowd!

We've planned many reunion picnics on both sides of our family. They started out small and have gotten bigger and bigger over the years!

Our reunion picnics have become treasured family memories.

Our reunion picnics have become treasured family memories.

Let's Have a Picnic!

We have planned and hosted many reunions on both sides of our family. We started out small and made them bigger and better with each passing year.

These events have truly made my huge family closer. We are spread out across the country, and while many of us keep in touch through email, Facebook, and other means, nothing compares to being elbow to elbow in line to fill your plate. We've met cousins we probably would never have met in person. We've shared weddings, births, and the passing of loved ones. Our reunion picnics have become treasured family memories.

Our menu changes a bit from year to year, but this is one that works particularly well for large crowds.

  • Appetizer: relish tray*
  • Hamburgers
  • Hot dogs
  • Cowboy baked beans*
  • Ramen noodle salad*
  • Sweet club crackers*
  • Lemonade*
  • Bottled water

* Recipes for these items appear below.

Appetizer: Relish Tray

This tray is a stand-alone appetizer tray for 50-60 people. If served with other veggie trays and other food, it will easily serve 100. This relish tray includes any number of marinated or "pickled" things, both fruits and vegetables, but no fresh veggies; spiced apple rings, pickles, pickled peppers, spiced pickled pears, pickled mushrooms are some examples. Everything should be very carefully drained and no dip or dressing is served.

Ingredients

The stars of the show:

  • 64 ounces (4 pounds) assorted black and green olives, pitted
  • 64 ounces (4 pounds) pepperoncini or sweet banana peppers (mild pickled peppers)
  • 62 ounces (4 pounds) marinated artichoke hearts or marinated green beans
  • 62 ounces (4 pounds) tiny dill pickles
  • 62 ounces (4 pounds) small sweet pickles (cornichons)
  • 62 ounces (4 pounds) bread and butter pickles or whole marinated mushrooms

For garnishes/section dividers (any combination of the following):

  • 6 cans (8 cups) canned baby corn
  • 6 cans (8 cups) gardineira (Italian pickled mixed vegetables)
  • 6 cans (8 cups) pickled pearl onions
  • Whole, trimmed green onions
  • Celery sticks
  • Carrot sticks

Instructions

  1. Chill ingredients ahead of time. When ready to use, drain well.
  2. Using large (14-18 inch) platters, arrange garnishes as dividers.
  3. Arrange olives and pickles between the garnish dividers.
  4. Serve slightly chilled or room temperature.

So Many Options!

The great thing about the relish tray is that it's endlessly flexible. Mix and match to your heart's content.

  • Radish rosettes
  • Celery sticks stuffed with chicken salad, pimento cheese, nut butter, or cream cheese
  • Crunchy jicama strips
  • 4 large fennel roots, marinated and sliced
  • 4 pints grape or cherry tomatoes
  • Hearts of palm
  • Pickled cauliflower, beets, or okra (mild or hot)
  • Watermelon pickles (made from the rind)
  • Corn relish or chow chow
  • Pickled peaches
  • Apple slices or spiced crab apples
  • Sesame seed sticks
  • Spiced pecans or walnuts
  • Pickled red beet eggs or deviled eggs
  • Hard-boiled quail eggs in curry sauce
Hamburgers and hot dogs are bbq staples!

Hamburgers and hot dogs are bbq staples!

Dogs, Burgers, Condiments, Etc.

  • Hot dogs: Approximately 150-200 hot dogs
  • Hamburgers: 100-125 hamburgers. My preference is for 75/25 ground chuck. You can ask your local grocer to make these up in quarter-pound patties. Pick them up the day before for the picnic.
  • Buns: You will need at least 100 of each kind (100 hot dog buns and 100 hamburger buns). You may also wish to buy 1-2 loaves of bread. These can be picked up 3-4 days ahead. When ready to serve, keep them in their plastic wrappers and only open 1 or 2 bags of each at a time.
  • Lettuce: You'll need about 5 heads of lettuce. Wash, drain, and dry the lettuce. Then tear pieces to fit the hamburger bun. Place the lettuce pieces into ziplock bags with one damp paper towel. You can do this the day before.
  • Tomatoes: 12-14 tomatoes. Slice the day before and put them into plastic containers.
  • Cheese slices: 3 pounds, or at least 150 slices.
  • Hamburger dill pickles: 2 quarts
  • Ketchup: 3 quarts (preferably squeeze bottles)
  • Mustard: 2 quarts (preferably squeeze bottles)
  • Dill relish: 3 quarts (preferably squeeze bottles)
  • Ice: 50 lbs.
  • Water: 5 gallons drinking water or 8-9 cases of 24 (16 oz.) bottles of water
You can make these cowboy baked beans in any stockpot or crockpot

You can make these cowboy baked beans in any stockpot or crockpot

Cowboy Baked Beans

This recipe makes enough for a large group, but you may need to double the recipe because they are so good. Please note that these beans are spicy hot, so not everyone will be a fan.

Thanks go to Janet for sharing her beloved recipe!

Ingredients

  • 1 gallon pork and beans
  • 1 box brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 cup mustard
  • 1 pound hot sausage
  • 1 cup chopped onions

Instructions

  1. Fry sausage until done. Drain and crumble into small pieces.
  2. Mix all ingredients in a large stockpot or crockpot and simmer for at least 2 hours before serving.
This salad is made with instant ramen noodles!

This salad is made with instant ramen noodles!

Ramen Noodle Salad

Thanks go to Wilma for this recipe. To feed a crowd, be sure to double the recipe.

Ingredients

  • 16 ounces slaw mix
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped radishes
  • 1/2 cup chopped red or green pepper
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2 packages ramen noodles, crushed
  • 3/4 cup sunflower seeds
  • 3/4 cup slivered almonds
  • 3/4 cup oil
  • 1/3 cup vinegar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 flavor packets from the ramen noodles

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, combine slaw mix, green onion, radishes, and red or green pepper. Mix and set aside.
  2. In a separate bowl, combine the melted butter, ramen noodles, sunflower seeds, and almonds.
  3. Bake the noodle mixture at 350°F for 25 minutes, but do not let the noodles get brown.
  4. Make the dressing: In a bowl, combine the oil, vinegar, sugar, soy sauce, and flavor packets (from the ramen noodles).
  5. Half an hour before serving, combine everything together: the vegetable mixture, the baked noodle mixture, and the dressing.

Sweet Club Crackers

These sweet crackers taste almost like peanut brittle, and the texture is similar to a cookie. You may want to triple or even quadruple this recipe. These puppies are that good! Credit for this concoction goes to Deb.

Ingredients

  • 160 club crackers
  • 2 3/4 cups sugar
  • 2 pounds butter
  • 32 ounces slivered almonds

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 300°F. Line cookie sheets with aluminum foil.
  2. Melt the butter and mix with sugar.
  3. Place the crackers on cookie sheets. Sprinkle the almonds on top. Spoon the butter mixture on top.
  4. Bake for 12-15 minutes. Transfer to a plate and let them cool.
Lemonade is the taste of summer

Lemonade is the taste of summer

Lemonade

How can you have a picnic without lemonade? This recipe serves 100.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups water
  • 8 cups sugar
  • 7 1/2 cups lemon juice
  • Sliced lemon rinds
  • 4 gallons water

Instructions

  1. Boil the 4 cups of water and 8 cups of sugar for 10 minutes until all of the sugar has dissolved. Cool.
  2. Add lemon juice, lemon rinds, and the remaining 4 gallons of water.
You're going to need a grill . . . and a few other things.

You're going to need a grill . . . and a few other things.

Necessary Supplies

  • Gas grill with full tank of gas or charcoal grill with large size bag of charcoal
  • Long stick matches
  • Insect repellent
  • Plastic table cover rolls (minimum of 150 feet)
  • 2-3 rolls paper towels
  • 200 paper napkins
  • 150 foam or sturdy plastic plates
  • 200 sturdy plastic cups (preferably 16-oz size)
  • 150 foam or sturdy plastic bowls
  • 125 each sturdy plastic spoons, forks, and knives
  • Flippers and tongs for grilling and serving
  • Serving forks
  • Serving spoons (some solid spoons, some slotted spoons)
  • Aluminum foil
  • Empty ziplock bags
  • Trash bags
  • First-aid kit
They make a pretty cute planning committee, but adult supervision may be required...

They make a pretty cute planning committee, but adult supervision may be required...

The Planning Committee

It is best to have a team of about three people to plan, organize, and pull off this shindig!

Committee Decisions/Tasks

  • Guest list: Who will be invited?
  • Menu: What foods and drinks will be served?
  • Supplies: You're going to need a lot of supplies. Refer to the list above.
  • Location: Decide where the event will be held. Parks are popular locations (reservations are typically required). Alternatively, perhaps someone on the guest list has a large backyard or private property that could be a good site.
  • Potluck: Review the guest list to assign food contributions or tasks to each person or family group.
  • Divvy up the list: Split the guest list evenly between the planning committee members. Each committee member spends the next week contacting everyone on their list to let them know what they need to bring or do.

Picnic Location

  • Park: If the picnic will be held at a park, make sure to reserve your space and pay the deposit, as needed.
  • Backyard or private property: If it is at someone's backyard or farm, the team will need to make sure there are tables and chairs. Can use hay bales to sit on, blankets and quilts on the ground, etc.

Final Prep

  • Two weeks before: Compile a shopping list and schedule a date about a week before the event to do the shop.
  • One week before: Each committee member contacts the people on their list to make sure they are coming and bringing their assigned items.
  • One week before: Shop for the items that were not assigned.
Have lots of coolers with ice for the drinks.

Have lots of coolers with ice for the drinks.

10 More Suggestions

  • Music: Live music would be lots of fun, if possible. If not, have a boom box with lots of CDs ready. Program it for random continuous play and change the CD every now and then.
  • Ice/drinks: Have plenty of coolers on hand to hold the ice or use a kiddie pool and cover with clean white trash bags. If serving canned sodas, fill the kiddie pool or tub with ice and place individual cans in the ice.
  • Sign-in table: Have a sign-in table with several pages and pens ready for groups to list their names and addresses including email addresses. It will make it much easier to communicate for the next year. If you'd like, you could also. consider having a donation jar for next year's event.
  • Door prizes: For a group of 100 guests, I'd recommend having about 25 door prizes. They should be inexpensive and can be like white elephant gifts. You could also do a themed reunion/party, and the gifts can reflect the theme.
  • Tournament: Games are always fun, and a tournament can build fun family rivalry year after year. Ideas include corn hole, horseshoes, checkers, and bingo.
  • Old family photos: Have old family pictures mounted on poster board and scattered around the area. It's great to see different groups gathering around the photo boards, talking about old times.
  • Raffle: Raffle off a homemade quilt or other homemade item for funds for the next year. You can sell tickets at the sign-in table.
  • Sports: Have equipment on hand so that guests can play football, soccer, badminton, and/or volleyball. Depending on the ages of the kids that are attending, you may also need some activities for younger kids (e.g., bubbles, parachutes, hula hoops, kids' balls, etc.).
  • MC: If you have a boom box with a microphone, have a family member who knows most of the people attending be the MC. They can break in and give away the door prizes, keep the tourneys going by announcing who is up next, etc. They can tell funny stories, etc.
  • Tee shirts: Have someone in charge of making tee shirts for each year with the reunion year or theme.
Family reunions are the best!

Family reunions are the best!

See You Next Year!

I hope this guide has given you the blueprint you need to successfully plan and host a large picnic. These are the kinds of events that build family connections and memories that will last a lifetime. Until next year!

Reader Feedback

amy1980 on October 02, 2009:

One of the best and most useful recipe lenses I've seen! This is great, thanks!

daviddavid200 on August 11, 2009:

I'm hungry! :)

anonymous on July 21, 2009:

Top notch lens. I have been to your picnics and y'all know what yiou're doing. 5 stars*****

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