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Exotic animals and gospel singing are only two of the attractions that will be found at the Johnson Ranch Saturday, during the Empire Community Picnic.
Sponsoring the event is Fair Baptist Church, led by Rev. David Spangler.
This is the 12th year for the church to help in putting on the picnic, and Spangler said this is one way for the church to stay involved in the rural township.
“It’s a way for us to show the community of Empire that we’re thankful to be able to minister to them,” he said. “We like to keep a good rapport with everyone and want to be recognized as an asset.”
The event begins at 6 p.m. and there is no admission or dinner fee.
The church will be serving hamburgers, hot dogs, roasted corn on the cob and drinks until 7 p.m.
A variety of games are among the activities, including volleyball, horse shoes, sack races, a cow chip toss and a watermelon seed spitting contest.
At registration, those who want to participate will be entered in a drawing for door prizes.
“We have some prizes for children, some for youth and some for adults,” said Spangler.
“There may be some gag gifts for the winners of the contests.”
Additionally, there will be an inflatable play area for the younger children. In past years, it has been either a moon bounce or a slide.
However, one of the biggest draws will be the return of Brandon’s Outback Adventure. Brandon Null, the son of Fair Baptist’s youth director, is returning for the second year with his menagerie of birds, reptiles and large snakes.
“The dangerous animals, he keeps penned up,” said Spangler.
“There are some animals he gets out and allows the kids to handle.”
The conclusion of the evening will feature gospel singing from local churches and The Goodin Family of Tishomingo.
The Goodins have been performing for 13 years and the majority of songs they perform are written by members of the family. They provide a variety of music, including praise and worship, bluegrass and Southern gospel.
Spangler said he is anticipating a good crowd from the Empire community to show up, based on attendance of previous years.
There was one year the event was rained out, but the break in the summer-long heat wave should result in many people taking advantage of the pleasant evening weather.
“We usually see between 200-250 people show up,” he said. Spangler also expressed much gratitude to the Johnson family for allowing them to hold the event at their ranch each year.
“It’s such a wonderful place,” he said.
“It really creates a beautiful atmosphere for the picnic.”
Johnson Ranch is located 1 mile south of Bois d’Arc on Empire Road.
For information, call Fair Baptist Church at 580-252-5600.