25-Year-Club event remains important

There was a time when the day of the 25-Year-Club picnic required announcements of parking plans, transportation plans, buses to shuttle the people of the steel mill in Weirton from downtown to the Serbian Picnic Grounds.

There would have been enough food to take care of at least two shifts of thousands of employees, plus all the retirees who would show up for the event. Entertainment and a day of reminiscing were all part of the experience.

But with the mill having gone through various owners and the decline of the steel industry in the United States, the picnic, like the mill itself, is smaller, but still important.

This year’s picnic is 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Serbian Picnic Grounds.

The smaller and shorter picnic is a reminder of what has changed. The mill is no longer the employer of 12,000 people, and the number of retirees has begun to dwindle as time and age catches up with them. Hundreds will still gather, instead of the thousands of decades past.

The history of the community and the mill are still tied up with that factory and always will be, long after demolition crews and redevelopment change the landscape of the north end of Weirton.

The Weirton Steel Division of National Steel Corp. founded the club in 1945 as a way to honor its long-term employees. Community sponsors have generously stepped up as the factory no longer pays for the picnic. For the community, the picnic symbolizes the days when steel dominated the area economically.

For the workers, it’s still a great way for those still working to connect with those who came before them, a tradition that has endured for a lifetime.