62 Years and Counting: Calhoun County, Iowa, Families Maintain 4th of July Picnic Tradition
Looking for deli fried chicken, bakery pies or other pre-made convenience food? Don’t be surprised if none of it turns up on the massive buffet on the Dial farm during the annual 4th of July picnic. I certainly didn’t see it at this year’s celebration.
“Everyone brings their A game to this event,” said Jolene Schleisman of Lake City, Iowa, who has been attending the 4th of July picnic since she was a child.
While my family has been attending the picnic each July for a few years, the event started in 1954 on Bud Burley’s farm near Lake City. Mike and Dorothy Nichols hosted the party the next year and maintained the tradition until 1981. Then their neighbors, Gerald and Alice Ann Dial, began hosting the celebration on their farm northwest of Lake City. In 2003, the event moved to the Dial’s son Dwight’s farm east of Lake City.
The celebration has been going strong ever since, attracting up to 50 or 60 guests each 4th of July. Along with the fireworks at dusk, the big attraction is the food. Countertops spanning the width of Dial’s two-car garage, along with additional tables, are loaded with homemade fried chicken, roast pork, casseroles, cheese potatoes, baked beans, salads of all kinds, deviled eggs, cakes, pies, candies and more.
“I appreciate how neighbors of all ages enjoy each other’s company,” said Laura Holm, a teacher from Ames who grew up on a farm near Lake City and brings her family back home for the picnic. “I also love the homemade, made-from-the-heart food that comes from friends’ kitchens, not store shelves. This party is about my roots, and I love to teach my kids about these roots.”
At this year’s celebration, Dial’s son, Andy, prepared a number of favorite recipes in honor of his late grandmother, Alice Ann Dial, including her famous lemon me
ringue pie. Schleisman also brought a number of classic dishes, including glazed ham balls. Oh yeah, that amazing Iowa classic that makes any picnic a little more memorable.
“To me and the Dial kids, the 4th of July picnic was better than Christmas,” Schleisman said. “I love it that this tradition continues.”
I couldn’t have said it better. Let’s eat!
Savor more Iowa food history
Want more fun Iowa food stories and recipes? Check out my top-selling “Culinary History of Iowa” book from The History Press, and order your signed copy today.
Andy Dial used his Grandma Alice Ann Dial’s recipe and his Grandma Dottie Loeck’s cast-iron skillet to make this fried chicken, which is always a star of the 4th of July picnic.
4 dozen chicken hind quarters separated into legs and thighs.
5 cups all-purpose flour
1 1 / 2 teaspoons onion powder
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp black pepper
4 tablespoons garlic salt
1 teaspoon paprika
2 tablespoons Lawry’s seasoning salt
1 cup whole milk
Combine breading ingredients until mixed thoroughly. Place breading mix into a 9.5-inch pie pan. Beat eggs and milk together until mixed thoroughly. Place egg wash in a separate 9.5-inch pie pan.
Place chicken pieces first in the egg wash until liberally coated; then transfer to the breading mix and turn until coated fully. Once coated with breading, place chicken pieces into hot oil in frying pan. (Andy Dial prefers a cast-iron skillet.) Turn pieces ever 2 to 3 minutes until golden brown all over. Place into roaster pan at 350 degrees to finish cooking through and keep warm until serving time.
Note: To keep chicken crispy, serve immediately after frying.
Glazed Ham Balls
Jolene Schleisman of Lake City uses 4 pounds of a ham-ball mix from the locker in Lake City to make these tasty ham balls. Her recipe shows how to make your own ham-ball meat mix, however. These ham balls can be made ahead and frozen (unglazed) to be baked later.
For the ham balls:
2 1 / 2 pounds ground ham
1 1 / 2 pounds ground pork
2 cups instant oatmeal or cracker crumbs
2 eggs, well beaten
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon ground pepper
For the glaze:
1 1 / 2 cups brown sugar
1 / 2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 / 3 cup Cookies BBQ Sauce
1 / 2 cup water
2 tablespoons honey
Combine ground ham, ground pork, oatmeal or cracker crumbs, eggs, milk and pepper. Shape mixture into balls. Freeze the ham balls to bake later, or place them in a greased, glass baking dish.
To make the glaze, combine brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, dry mustard, BBQ sauce, water and honey in a saucepan. Cook over medium heat until sugar dissolves.
Pour glaze over ham balls. Bake for 1.5 to 2 hours at 275 or 300 degrees. About every 20 minutes, spoon the glaze over the ham balls as they bake. Yield: 32 ham balls
Andy Dial used a recipe from his mother, Jane, to create this potluck favorite.
1 / 16 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 / 4 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon vinegar
1 / 2 teaspoon dry mustard or 1 teaspoon prepared mustard
1 / 2 teaspoon salt
Slice hard-boiled eggs in half lengthwise. Remove yolks, smash and mix with seasonings. Refill egg whites with seasoned yolk mixture.
Jeanne Devine of Lake City brought along this potluck classic, which she created from a recipe on the Taste of Home website. This recipe can be easily doubled for a larger group.
4 ounces bacon, diced
1 pound lean ground beef (90% lean)
1 / 2 cup chopped onion
1 can (21 ounces) pork and beans
1 can (16 ounces) kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (16 ounces) butter beans, rinsed and drained
1 / 2 cup packed brown sugar
1 / 2 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 teaspoon prepared mustard
1 teaspoon salt
In a large skillet, cook bacon over medium heat until crisp. Remove to paper towels to drain. Discard drippings. In the same skillet, cook beef and onion over medium heat until the meat is no longer pink; drain. Combine the beef mixture, bacon, beans, brown sugar, ketchup, vinegar, mustard and salt. Spoon into a greased 2-quart baking dish.
Bake, uncovered, at 325 degrees for 45 to 60 minutes or until the beans are as thick as desired. Yield: 8-10 servings.
Alice Ann Dial’s signature pie is distinguished by its fresh lemon flavor.
For the filling:
2 cups sugar
4 egg yolks
2 cups water
1 / 2 cup cornstarch
Dash of salt
8 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons butter
For the meringue:
4 egg whites
8 tablespoons sugar
1 / 4 teaspoon cream of tartar
To mix the pie filling: Blend sugar, egg yolks, water, cornstarch and salt. Cook until the mixture thickens and bubbles up. Remove from heat and add lemon juice and butter. Pour the filling in a pre-baked pie shell made from Alice Ann’s all-purpose pastry mix (see recipe below) and cover immediately with meringue.
To make the meringue, beat the eggs whites until foamy. Add sugar and cream of tartar. Beat slowly until peaks form. Spread on pie, and bake the pie for 20 to 25 minutes at 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
All-Purpose Pastry Mix
Alice Ann Dial kept this all-purpose pastry mix on hand to save time when baking pie.
7 cups flour
4 teaspoons salt
2 cups lard
Combine all ingredients together to create a crumbled consistency, but make sure the mix doesn’t clump together. Store mixture in a covered container in the refrigerator.
For a single crust:
1 1 / 2 cups all-purpose pastry mix
3 tablespoons ice-cold water
For a double crust:
3 cups all-purpose pastry mix
5 tablespoons ice-cold water
Combine the all-purpose pastry mix and ice water until the mixture leaves the sides of the bowl. Then roll out the dough. If you’re making a pie shell for a lemon meringue pie, place the crust in a pie plate and prick the dough with a fork on the bottom and sides before baking the crust at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 to 12 minutes.
- Do Press Releases Still Work?
- Erasing History? Budget Cuts Threaten to Gut Ag History at Iowa State University
- Machines that Changed America: John Froelich Invents the First Tractor in Iowa
- Bob Feller on Farming, Baseball and Military Service
- Classic Restaurants of Des Moines: A Taste of Thailand Served the "Publics" and Politics
- Want to Combat Fake News? Become a Better Researcher
- Communication Tips
- Dallas County
- Food history
- Iowa food
- Iowa history
- Small town
Archive by year
- When Agriculture Entered the Long Depression in the Early 1920s
- The Corn Lady: Jessie Field Shambaugh and the Birth of 4-H in Iowa
- Sauce to Sanitizer: Cookies Food Products Bottles Hand Sanitizer Made with Ethanol
- Myth Busting: No, Your Pork Doesn't Come from China
- Long Live Print Newsletters! 5 Keys to Content Marketing Success
- Shattering Silence: Farmer Helped Slave Find Freedom and Racial Equality in Iowa
- Meet Iowa Farmer James Jordan, Underground Railroad Conductor
- George Washington Carver Rose from Slavery to Ag Scientist
- Remembering the African-American Sioux City Ghosts Fast-Pitch Softball Team
- Want to Combat Fake News? Become a Better Researcher
- Classic Restaurants of Des Moines: A Taste of Thailand Served the "Publics" and Politics
- The Untold Story of Iowa’s Ag Drainage Systems
- Stop Rumors Before They Ruin Your Brand
- Finding Your Voice: The Story You Never Knew About "I Have a Dream"
- Warm Up with Homemade Macaroni and Cheese Soup
- Can a True Story Well Told Turn You into a Tom Brady Fan?
- Baking is for Sharing: Best Bread, Grandma Ruby’s Cookies and Other Iowa Favorites
- 4 Key Lessons from Bud Light’s Super Bowl Corn-troversy
- Could Your Story Change Someone’s Life?
- What To Do When the Travel Channel Calls
- Tex-Mex Sloppy Joes and the Magic of Maid-Rite in Iowa
- How Not to Invite Someone to Your Next Event--and 3 Solutions
- We Need FFA: Iowa Ag Secretary Mike Naig Reflects on His FFA Experiences
- From My Kitchen to Yours: Comfort Food, Conversation and Living History Farms
- Smart Marketing Lessons from an Uber Driver--Listen Up!
- Hog Trailers to Humidors: Two New Iowa Convenience Stores Reflect “Waspy’s Way”
- A Dirty Tip to Make Your Social Media Content More Shareable
- Are You on Team Cinnamon Roll?
- Senator Grassley on Farming: Any Society is Only Nine Meals Away From a Revolution
- Why We Should Never Stop Asking Why
- What’s the Scoop? Expanded Wells’ Ice Cream Parlor Offers a Taste of Iowa
- Independence, Iowa’s Connection to the Titanic and Carpathia
- Memories of Carroll County, Iowa, Century Farm Endure
- Iowa's “Peacemaker Pig” Floyd of Rosedale Helped Calm Racial Tensions
- How to Cook a Perfect Prime Rib
- How Did We Get So Rude?
- Mmm, Mmm Good: Soup’s on at the Rockwell City Fire Department
- Quit Using “Stupid Language”
- In Praise of Ham and Bean Soup
- Recalling a Most Unconventional—and Life-Changing--FFA Journey
- Events Spark Stories That Help Backcountry Winery Grow in Iowa
- Sac County Barn Quilt Attracts National Attention
- Doing Good, Eating Good at Lytton Town Night
- Young Entrepreneur Grows a Healthy Business in Small-Town Iowa
- Digging Deeper: Volunteers Showcase Thomas Jefferson Gardens in Iowa
- How to Tell Your Community’s Story—with Style!
- DNA Helps Sailor Killed at Pearl Harbor Return to His Family
- It’s Time to Be 20 Again: Take a Road Trip on Historic Highway 20
- The Biggest Reason You Shouldn’t Slash Your Marketing Budget in Tough Times
- Are You Telling a Horror Story of Your Business?
- Pieced Together: Barn Quilt Documentary Features Iowa Stories
- Unwrapping Storytelling Tips from the Candy Bomber
- Barn Helped Inspire Master Craftsman to Create Dobson Pipe Organ Builders
- Butter Sculptures to Christmas Ornaments: Waterloo Boy Tractor Celebrates 100 Years
- Ag-Vocating Worldwide: Top 10 Tips for Sharing Ag’s Story with Consumers
- Growing with Grow: Iowa 4-H Leader Guides 100-Year-Old 4-H Club for 50 Years
- High-Octane Achiever: Ethanol Fuels New Driver Tiffany Poen
- Shakespeare Club Maintains 123 Years of Good Taste in Small-Town Iowa
- Iowa’s Ice Queen: Entrepreneur Caroline Fischer’s Legacy Endures at Hotel Julien Dubuque
- Darcy's Bill of Assertive Rights: How to Communicate and Get What You Need
- Celebrating Pi Day in Iowa with Old-Fashioned Chicken Pot Pie
- Cooking with Iowa’s Radio Homemakers
- Top 10 Tips to Find the Right Writer to Tell Your Company’s Stories
- The “No BS” Way to Protect Yourself from Rude, Obnoxious People
- Learning from the Land: 9 Surprising Ways Farmers Make Conservation a Priority
- Leftover Ham? Make This Amazing Crustless Spinach and Ham Quiche
- Iowa’s Lost History from the Titanic
- Coming Soon--"Dallas County," a New Iowa History Book!
- How to Clean a Burned Pan in 6 Simple Steps
- Iowa Beef Booster: Larry Irwin Takes a New Twist on Burgers
- Get Your Grill On: How to Build a Better Burger
- "Thank God It’s Over:" Iowa Veteran Recalls the Final Days of World War 2
- How to Thank Veterans for Their Military Service
- Imagine That! Writers, Put Your Reader Right in the Action
- Remembering Ambassador Branstad’s Legacy from the 1980s Farm Crisis in Iowa
- Busting the Iowa Butter Gang
- Lightner on Leadership: “Everyone Has Something to Give”
- Show Up, Speak Up, Don’t Give Up
- Small - Town Iowa Polo Teams Thrilled Depression - Era Crowd
- Ethanol:Passion by the Gallon
- Cruising Through Forgotten Iowa History on Lincoln Highway
- Why I'm Using a Powerful 500-Year-Old Technology to Make History--And You Can, Too
- 5 Ways a “History Head” Mindset Helps You Think Big
- Behind the Scene at Iowa's Own Market to Market
- Let’s Have an Iowa Potluck with a Side of History!
- Iconic State Fair Architecture: Historic Buildings Reflect Decades of Memories
- Iconic State Fair Architecture- Historic Buildings Reflect Decades of Memories
- Iowa Underground - How Coal Mining Fueled Dallas County's Growth
- Ultra-Local Eating: Jennifer Miller Guides CSA, Iowa Food Cooperative
- The Hotel Pattee and I are Hosting a Party—And You’re Invited!
- Tell Your Story—But How?
- Mediterranean Delights: Iowa Ag Influences Syrian-Lebanese Church Dinner
- 6 Steps for More Effective and Less Confrontational Conversations
- 6 Steps for More Effective and Less Confrontational Conversations!
- 6 Ways to Motivate Yourself to Write—Even When You’re Not in the Mood
- Always Alert-How to Stay Safe in Any Situation
- Does Accuracy Even Matter Anymore?
- Soy Power Shines at Historic Rainbow Bridge
- Free Gifts! (Let’s Talk Listening, Stories and History)
- How to Connect with Anyone: Lessons from a Tornado
- Soul Food: Lenten Luncheons Carry on 45-Year Iowa Tradition
- Top 3 Tips for Writing a Must-Read Article
- Darcy's Top 10 Tips to Better Writing
- Top 8 Tips for Building a Successful Freelance Business
- 10 Steps to Better Photos
- Reinventing the Marketer of 2010
- Extreme Writing Makeover
- My Top Social Media Tips for Farmers: REVEALED!
- Honoring the Legacy of Rural Iowa's Greatest Generation
- Iowa's Orphan Train Heritage
- Dedham’s Famous Bologna Turns 100: Kitt Family Offers a Taste of Iowa History
- Iowa Barn Honors Pioneer Stock Farm
- Darcy's Top 10 Tips for Better Photos
- Soup and Small-Town Iowa Spirit
- Savoring the Memories: Van's Café Served Up Comfort Food for Six Decades
- Mayday, Mayday—The Lost History of May Poles and May Baskets in Iowa
- Iowa's Vigilante Crime Fighters of the 1920s and 1930s
- Very Veggie: Iowan's Farm-Fresh Recipes Offer Guilt-Free Eating
- Iowa Public TV's "Market to Market" Features Expedition Yetter, Agri-Tourism, Des Moines Water Works' Lawsuit
- 62 Years and Counting: Calhoun County, Iowa, Families Maintain 4th of July Picnic Tradition
- “A Culinary History of Iowa” Satisfies: Iowa History Journal Book Review
- For the Love of Baking: Lake City's Ellis Family Showcases Favorite Iowa Farm Recipes (Caramel Rolls, Pumpkin Bars and More!)
- Remembering Sept. 11: Iowa Community’s Potluck Honors America
- Talking Iowa Food and Culinary History on Iowa Public Radio
- Talking "Stilettos in the Cornfield," Taxes, Trade and More on CNBC
- FarmHer #RootedinAg Spotlight--FFA Attracts More Women to Careers in Ag
- Rustic Cooking Refined: Iowan Robin Qualy Embraces Global Flavors
- Voice of Reason: Iowa Pork Producer Dave Struthers Offers Top 10 Tips to Speak Up for Ag
- Iowa Eats! Why Radio Iowa, Newspapers and Libraries are Hungry for "A Culinary History of Iowa"
- Iowa Turkeys Carry on National Thanksgiving Tradition
- Riding with Harry: 2016 Presidential Election Reflects Truman's Iowa Revival at 1948 Plowing Match in Dexter
- All Aboard! Rockwell City’s “Depot People” Offer a Taste of Iowa History
- Is This Iowa's Favorite Appetizer?
- O, Christmas Tree! Small Iowa Towns Celebrate with Trees in the Middle of the Street
- Slaves Escaped Through Dallas County on Iowa’s Underground Railroad
- Adel Barn Accents Penoach Winery in Iowa
- Celebrating New Year's Eve in Style at a Classic Iowa Ballroom