LEHI — Saturday marks the 118th year for a traditional roast beef dinner known as the Old Folks Party.

In 1892 William Southwick returned from his mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the southern states wanting to honor the older residents of Lehi for their service, so he founded the Old Folks Party in December 1892.

At first farmers and merchants supplied the food. Then committee members canvassed the town for donations. Later the local LDS stakes started picking up the tab.

In the 1960s the Old Folks Party became an official annual event.

Some people don't like to be called "old folks," but they don't want to change the name of the party, either, said activities coordinator Linda Turner. The name was changed in 1985 to "Golden Anniversary Party," but that didn't sit well, so the organizing committee changed it back.

The party committee is made up of people under 60 called by LDS ward bishops, although the Old Folks Party is considered a community event, not a church event. Still, church members hand out invitations by LDS ward boundaries. Residents who don't belong to the LDS Church are invited, as are widows and widowers.

"There is an actual rule the committee members reaching 60 years of age are released from service to become participants," said Turner.

This year's party is at Lehi High School beginning at 11 a.m. with dinner at noon. Admission is free.

Over the years the party has taken place in various locations and has included communities as far away as Cedar Fort, but the menu never changes, said Julie Allen, this year's chairwoman. It's simply roast beef, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans and, of course, Jello.

Because of growth, it's now confined to Lehi residents, Allen said.

Last year 375 "old folks" attended, but meals were also sent out to shut-ins. Entertainers and helpers are also fed, bringing the total to 600 meals.

This year's entertainment includes a Lehi history slide show by Carl Mellor and the Utah Valley Skyline Chorus barbershop singers.


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